Sunday, February 19

How long does it take to arrange a bowl of lemons?

At least 45 minutes, apparently.

I'm learning to paint. I've never painted, and I've never known how. At college aged 16 250 years ago I was terribly good at drawing, but never learnt how to paint. I really wish someone had taught me, but as a friend of mine said the other day, they didn't do it like that in those days. You were left to get on with stuff. It was probably Margaret Thatcher's fault, or perhaps that was why she was busy closing down art schools when I was a student: free thinking is a dangerous thing.

Anyway. I've been working up to trying to learn to paint for about a year, I've had the paint for about a month, and after a few weeks of having to go and buy something else (can't start without the right brush...can't start without the right paint...can't start without the right thinners...can't start without the right weather...can't start without the right radio programme...yes I do have a problem with procrastination), I finally sat down and painted a lemon. And it wasn't completely awful. It was even bearable. Which was what I was aiming for, because I keep telling myself that I am just practising, so I can get better. I do not have to be good at it, I do not have to produce anything that someone would put on a wall. I am learning.

Flushed with my success I decided to attempt multiple lemons. If one lemon is good then surely three lemons will be three times good.

So this Saturday afternoon I found myself arranging lemons in a bowl, and lost in the cul-de-sac of perfectionism. After 45 mins of changing bowls, changing the order, adding an apple, taking away an apple, thinking about a flower, putting the lime on top, putting the lime at the back, putting the lime on my head, learning to put on liquid eyeliner, drinking two cups of tea, thinking I should wait until strawberries are in season, I finally realised I was obsessing about lemon perfection and remembered that I am just practising. Repeat: I am JUST PRACTISING. It does not need to be perfect. The arrangement is not the thing. At which point I hit upon a brilliant wheeze.

I got my husband to arrange the lemons. I agreed with him that he would arrange the lemons and I'd paint them. Admittedly I changed them about a bit (control freak), but it worked! He did the lemons, I was OK with it, and soon I shall be South East London's Premier Lemon Painter.