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Brown house part 6

But if things went the way she feared, she’d soon have to quit painting. Was her new husband just biding his time before he told her how he really felt? Was he already upset about her art? She suddenly realized that he would only allow three of her paintings on the walls of their small apartment. He said that any more would be clutter, so she’d taken to rotating them out. Some she sold. Some she gave away as presents. At one point when money was tight she even painted over a few of them because she had new ideas but no new canvases. She thought that one day when she was famous, someone could scan these canvases and recover the older work.

And then she thought more about it. Wasn’t that what she was doing now, with herself? Painting over who she was?

She had to figure something out, and soon, or otherwise she’d disappear, just like those paintings. She thought more about it and realized that she treated her paintings with the same attention and care she’d shown to herself, which sadly wasn’t much. Giving away her paintings was like giving away herself. Even selling them was bad because she always set the prices very low, sometimes it was just the cost of the materials. She’d always justified it to herself saying she was just a beginner, even though she’d made art for at least a dozen years.

Then she thought more about it. There were plenty of people who commanded very high prices for art that she saw as less sophisticated, less skilled than hers. She remembered hearing about an artist in America in the 20th century who simply threw paint at the canvas and charged many thousands of dollars for it. It was time for her to start asking and expecting more.

Clifford wouldn’t like it, she was sure, but there was no reason she should be the uncomfortable one. Ideally they’d both be happy, but happiness always comes with compromise. For too long, Joan felt she was always the one who had to move when push came to shove. She was forever making peace by letting others have their way. Sometimes she didn’t even share her opinion for fear it would be rejected.

This was why she started painting in the first place so many years ago. She could express herself without ruffling any feathers. It was as if everyone was speaking English and she decided to speak Welsh. They’d never know if she was agreeing with them or not. The sad part is that they never even noticed she wasn’t even communicating either, not really. Once she decided to be silent for a week and her family never even asked her if anything was wrong. They were so used to ignoring and overlooking her that only she experienced the week differently.

She’d hoped things would be different when she married, like starting fresh with a clean canvas. They could paint whatever picture they wanted together. Trouble is that she’d not realized that just because the other person is different, you are still the same. The matter where you go, there you are.


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