I never took a proper painting technique class in college. The damage that having literally no money does to your education is so great that I can’t even provide an accurate measure of it. I had some exposure to painting in High School, but it was using the cheapest shit paints that money could buy for the communal art class. Broken, frayed brushes, watery paint, or cheap egg tempera was really all I could get. I didn’t learn all that much.
When I received a scholarship to CMU’s pre-college art program reality again smacked me in the face. I had access to classes for gifted artists and shared classes with kids whose parents could afford the exorbitant tuition, but no money to buy the supplies. Limping through classes based on what I could scrape together or borrow really sucked ass. In many cases, my grade suffered. I ultimately was unable to complete both years of the the courses because I just did not have the supplies. What little I had I was terrified to use because I knew that was the last one I would ever see for awhile. College was a nightmare for the same reasons.
I can render a photo realistic image with a plain #2 pencil, but my knowledge of art starts to meet the end of the road when it comes to using tools that cost money. I always had access to a pencil and paper, so that is what I used. All the time.
I visited Red Bank, NJ today. I haven’t been back here since 1999. While I was walking through Funk and Standard, the local hipster clothing and trinket store I had a vivid flashback of the last time I was there. The walls started to close in and I watched in horror as the me of 1999 wandered through the store looking at things she couldn’t possibly afford. She had no idea that even just being there was a waste of time. This wasn’t a store – this was a museum of what “real people” could afford to buy with free admission.
Today I can buy anything I want in that store. Perhaps the delusion the me of 1999 had pushed me toward success. I still have a long way to go, but today it felt like I was playing the Red Bank video game on God Mode.
This revelation was bittersweet. At the same time that I realized how far I had come, the scars from back in the day still hurt like hell. About 2 minutes later I passed some rich kids decked out in crazy expensive clothing while having what appeared to be a flippant discussion. I couldn’t help but remember how unfair things were. I know the key to everything is to not let things like this bother me, so I quickly, like I always do, put it out of my mind.
I started an acrylic painting with some of my old, cheap art supplies. Tomorrow I’m placing an order for some professional level brushes and supplies. Why was I holding on to the dollar store paint brushes? Oh, I remember. I’m constantly afraid that this is the last paintbrush I will ever be able to get.
I’m incapable of referring to myself in a catchy label that evokes hipster internet viral cred. I have no stomach for it. I’m not going to lie to you and pretend that the success I have so far came overnight, without hard work, or from asshole fairies who shit on my art and made it magically appear in the news. I’ve worked hard for what I have and I do have the scars and the insomnia to prove it. 2012 should be even better than before and it’s 100% because I’m going to work even harder then before. I wish you guys all the best for the new year, and BTW here’s the painting I started with the cheapass art supplies I have. I might sew her eyes shut so that she can focus on the future:
Oni Hartstein is a Los Angeles-based CMO and entrepreneur that is obsessed with progressive rock / metal, marketing, and nightlife. Please direct all business inquiries or review requests to the "Contact" tab on the top nav bar.
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