Mastery of the Craft

Last night, I got into watercolor painting. I’m a rank amateur compared to my brother Brendan and my father, but I do love to push paint around paper and see if anything emerges. I try to get into the zone. I never have enough time. And the feeling I love best is when one effortless stroke yields something recognizable. And I have that rush of self-affirmation, “Wow, that’s good.” Or maybe, “I’m good.” I love  that dopamine hit of a feeling of mastery.

Yesterday we saw Edie Falco in the True, an off Broadway play about the politically savvy Polly Noonan, the Albany secretary and consultant of Mayor Erastus Corning II who served, unbelievably, for 41 years. Falco is one of my favorites. So are John Pankow and Michael McKean, also masters. It’s relaxing to go to the theater when you can trust the actors’ craft, sit back and let them do their thing. You don’t have to worry. It’s all going to be okay.

Corning may have peddled in corruption, but he knew his constituents well. And this seems to be what we’re missing nowadays in politics and in our neighborhoods — from the cop on the corner to the local Assembly person. Well, actually, I do know and love Linda Rosenthal, our Upper West Side assemblywoman. So never mind.

Our neighborhood is so beautiful in the fall. Just this afternoon on the way back from church, I spotted a rose at my neighbor’s down the block. It was still fragrant. (Is that global warming? We are in early October, after all). I snapped a picture of it and thought I might try to paint it. Making art, oddly, helps me overcome my despair about politics.

And theater about powerful women in politics, even as helpmates during a sexist era, uplifts me. There’s mastery there. Women in the arts, women in politics — we just can’t get enough.

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. – Pablo Picasso
I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint. – Frida Kahlo

I had an amazing advantage: a grandmother [Polly Noonan, the influential confidante of the mayor of Albany] who loved politics. She taught me not to listen to negative press or people. I grew up knowing politics was rough-and-tumble. – Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Senator

You might see also check out my brother Brendan’s art at BrendanCoudal.com

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