Two and a half years ago, I walked up a long flight of stairs in an old, dilapidated building. I entered a classroom, and there were artists hunched over their easels. The windows were covered with heavy black curtains. The room was pitch black. Each easel had a tiny lamp with an energy saver bulb, from which emanated a cold, unearthly light. It looked like a setup for veals.
The next class, I walked up the long flight of stairs in the old, dilapidated building. Entering the classroom, I sullenly looked at the curtains. The room was pitch black, even though it was morning. The students would arrive in just fifteen minutes. Walking over to the curtains, I paused. On the other side of that curtain was light. Real light. Vitamin D. I paused. I thought of how Charles Cecil opened my eyes to the beauty of light, flowing across the human form. I looked at the curtain. I contemplated the fact that I was a hired teacher, and these were not my curtains. I tugged the curtain slightly. Hmm, stapled up. I thought. I tugged a little harder. Hmmm. I gave a ferocious pull, and down they came with a crash. I proceeded on to the next window, and the next, and the next.
I stood in front of the windows, gazing at the light falling in golden squares on the wooden floors. The small dust particles floated across the rays of light, small galaxies in empty space.
The Painting Studio, by Saul Rosenstreich
As the students arrived, they looked like moles, squinting in the sunlight. The spirit of the class changed in an instant. The day flew by, and as the last student trickled out, I climbed a ladder, heavy curtains in one hand, staple gun in the other. As I restapled each cloth, I prayed “God, please give me a studio one day, one with beautiful light.”
And the curtains came down, and we laughed, and painted, and sharpened charcoal. And we coughed from the charcoal dust, and we painted, and we observed the light falling across a young ballet dancer’s shoulders. And the curtains went back up. And the curtains came down, and we fumbled with the coffee machine, and laughed, and painted a small makeup set, a pipe, and understood that a rainy winter day was as useful to a painter as a sun drenched summer day. And the curtains went up. And loved ones passed away, and the curtains came down, and we comforted, and we were quiet, and we painted the beloved whiskey tumbler of those who passed. And we laughed as we painted a portrait of an older man who wouldn’t stop talking. And the curtains went up.
Today, a couple friends came by my studio. They are my students, and have been studying painting with me for two and a half years. They came bearing gifts. They shared with me that all of my students had banded together, and to make a long story short, they have all enabled me to purchase a whole new set of martora kolinsky and bristle brushes. My existing brushes are from Florence, and although well cared for, are falling apart from use. I was speechless. We continued on to lunch, and enjoyed a long conversation about things to come.
When we returned to the studio in my father in law’s building, a large truck pulled up. It was the glass. A crane lifted the panels of glass onto the roof. The fifteen by twelve foot skylight will be in place on Wednesday, flooding my studio with light from above.
“You, Lord, keep my lamp burning. My God turns my darkness into light.” -a psalm of David