I might be delirious.
On Monday I hit my head on the shelf by my desk. My head hurt, but I didn’t think too much of it. This was followed by a cold, which has been annoying. Tuesday came around and the combination of the lump on my head and the sneezing and sniffling mean I wasn’t feeling all that great.
Yet, I had an art class. And art classes don’t exactly come in cheap, so I drove to the village to join the small group of people to learn to draw or paint.
My art teacher has this amazing knack of saying nothing and yet conveying his message exactly. I imagine great psychologists and coaches have a similar way with words.
He works with the model to find a position that’s reasonably helpful to us students. He suggests to the man stood to my left that he’d get a good composition from the other side of the room. What he’s saying is that drawing the model from the angle that he’s currently at (mostly the model’s back) is going to be frustrating because the young woman is laying at such an angle that she doesn’t look entirely real.
Have you ever looked at a word you’ve written excessively and suddenly wondered why the spelling looks odd. When you’re drawing from a model, they start off looking human and then become this peculiar amalgamation of shapes that feel like they aren’t quite real. Shoulders are just weird.
He looks at me and tells me I’ll be fine.
I start painting, gouache, and our tutor wanders around asking questions like, “Which eye is higher from where you’re standing?” and saying useful things like “It’s a lovely long curve along the rib cage isn’t it.” Clear indicators that the eyes shouldn’t be level and the curve along the ribcage needs to be longer.
He says none of these things to me but looks at me and then at the painting and then at me again.
“You’ve used more paint today than all of the other weeks so far.”
I look at the mess on the paper in front of me. If he can see the shape of the human figure on the page then I’m impressed. I can’t identify anything human about it, and I painted it.
I continue painting.
“Why don’t you try a more fluid motion, like Catherine’s doing, with all that energy.”
I have to pause painting because I’ve just had my painting technique used as an example and I’m in shock. I look back to the paper. It resembles a 5-year-old’s painting, of a whirlwind done, with their toe.
I knock over the water pot and have to do a quick, silent panicked cleanup. Feeling a little shaken, I add some red, and blue. If in doubt I add colour. I look back at the smooth skin of the Caucasian model and contemplate that I’m going to have to tone it all down quite a lot.
Sometime later, my art tutor asks what has happened to me. He’s looking at me as if my identical twin has come and taken the class instead of me. He seems flabbergasted. He wants to know what has caused a complete turn around in my painting style.
“It’s good,” he says.
I blink. These aren’t words I’ve heard him say before, at least not about my painting.
“10 minutes left.”
Whatever is left on the palette gets liberally applied to the paper, and then I stop. The model sits up and stretches. My tutor is standing behind me.
“Can I put it on the wall?”
I mumble “Yes.” I’m in shock. I don’t even have my phone with me so I have no way of taking a picture of the painting.
“I really like it. What you’ve done tonight.”
Shock I say, shock. I smile politely, whilst inside my mind’s dancing with elation.
I drive home, singing loudly to Taylor Swift (Holy Ground).
I get home and ring the Mother to tell her.
I tell the Boyfriend.
I’m so incredibly happy.
Then Wednesday happens. At some point, I bump my head on the shelf above my desk. I reach to feel the damage and blood sticks to my hand.
At some point, I snapchat the Boyfriend a picture of the scar.
At some point, I try to lower the whirly chair that’s by my desk whilst holding a cup of tea. It ends badly.
At some point, I realise that I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing. I feel like a small child lost in a supermarket on Christmas eve.
At some point, I call 111.
The Boyfriend arrives home and drives me to the doctors. The doctor asks me to count backwards from 100 in sevens.
“93,” pause, “86, 79” pause, “72, 60-, 65” I pause. Finally, on 44 she can stand it no longer.
“How’s your maths normally.”
“I have a physics degree.”
She diagnoses a concussion and suggests that I’ve probably had a concussion since Monday and I really really must do something about that shelf because I must not bang my head again. I shouldn’t be working, I can’t do sport, shouldn’t drive and I’ve got to take it easy.
The Boyfriend drives me home. I’m feeling a tad stupid.
And I’m worrying that my concussion was the cause of my artistic success.[People with concussion can’t be blamed for not proofreading.]