Realistic, vibrant, surprising, devoted, inspired, willing - all these words describe Henri Matisse, a painter and sculptor of the early twentieth century. He drew his whole career from a basic box of paints. He did what he loved, even though it took massive amounts of time to polish his skill. To say he loved his art is to say he and his art are separate, but after seeing a collection of his works, I must say that the man and his art seem a continuous, common being.
Realistic, vibrant, surprising, devoted, inspired, willing - these are words I too strive to embody as a young writer. Realistic and hopeful; vibrant in each moment; surprising in my many sides; devoted to God and my writing; inspired in my studies; willing to work hard to persevere.
As a junior reporter for our city’s newspaper, I could hardly believe my luck in securing the assignment to tour a Matisse exhibit. This collection seemed to tell his complete story, with tiny details and dreams hidden in his works. I found a new level of greatness in his humble expressions. His paintings drew some peculiar parallels to thoughts I’d stumbled over in my own journal and I was purely delighted.
I entered the display with quiet exhilaration. Something about the space, a maze of walls, felt both hungry and full. The rooms were like my journey to knowledge, laced in contentment and yearning. I could not reach far out enough to meet anyone or anything. I was blanketed by a peaceful solitude, and Matisse’s portraits drew close to my mind. This was a place separate from the world I knew. Here, open vision, the grandeur of mixed off-tones, soft lights and huge spaces delivered sight that’s particular to the imagination.
I followed as the curator moved around all the corners and partitions, feeling as though I were exploring a soul. On one side of a wall, the painting of a hallway lit with magical realism brought thoughtfulness to my ballpoint. Beside it, Matisse himself held a dove in one hand, drawing it with the other. Each painting hid infinite secrets. On the other side of the wall, I puzzled over a portrait of a woman. She rested as brilliant colors cascaded over her world. Did I know her? With each step in a new direction, my every sense rebelled. In any place I stopped and stood, I felt the restlessness of a child being torn from wonderment.
In this place, I fell in love with the romantic feat of the artist. I am no connoisseur of painters or technique, but of words. Colors and the palette are universal tools to the creative mind. Suddenly, I feel eased by the realization that my art is not imagined.
Matisse, then and there, sketched the portrait of an inspiration for me. I too, with diligence in crafting words and tailoring moments, in awe of the capacity of words, am overcome with the amateur writer’s tool kit. The rhythm of my thoughts motivates me. I am thirsty for expression, and the tools are promising. In the writer’s toolbox, I find a collection of memories, original ideas. This is all I really need. Like Matisse, a collection will spring from the simplest materials. If something is in my heart and I crave it, then the basic box of paints will always do. Its simplicity provides clarity and resolve.
At this moment, the pure life and honesty of Matisse’s touch seemed to pour down on me. The possibility of creating a masterpiece seemed close, all I needed to do is reach out and capture it.
Riches reside in the studio situated within every artist. Matisse’s compositions breathe wholehearted, unfearful originality into my writing to this day. Why should I deny my reader a strange new combination of colors? Matisse’s style, the unity derived from clashing elements, dares me to write without reserve. Art takes on life when its creator is not hesitant. And so, the late-night novella is my painting; the library is my museum; the language is my palette.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.