Most scenes I paint are the best angle with the best light in the most ideal composition. You can see how art and artificial have the same root, art is constructed, created for the goal of the artist. Art isn’t false as much as it is constructed. In a similar way, a friendship requires construction, creating something worth celebrating. Just like painting a garden, painting a friendship requires you figure out what is worth celebration. Not every angle is glorious.
We all have ugliness in our lives. Ruts we’ve dug where we won’t budge, our spouse probably could name a few in less than five seconds. We all have stories that reveal scenes no one would want to paint.
When I paint a scene, I walk around the place to observe the different sides. When I was painting the Moffat-Ladd House and Garden, I saw several angles that were frankly uninspiring and flat. And you’ll see how grand this house was in a moment. Even the great humans, like the great houses, have lowliness about them.
But a friend approaches another human much like an artist approaches a scene, watching for the places to celebrate. An artist knows there’s a pile of drabby garbage and untended weeds on the other side of the view, but she chooses to paint where the sun made the white arch sing. In the same way, a close friend knows the ugliness of her friend. She knows the mean-spirited or manipulative words that can spring up when she’s threatened. She knows the way he disappears when the conversation turns to pain. She knows her bright blindness that keeps the truth at arms’ length.
When you’ve been friends for a long time, you can grow weary of then old angles, the ruts. We see the ugliness quite large, perhaps. And we can name our own contributions to the disenchantment. Perhaps we don’t share honestly, or appropriately. Maybe we over-shared or gossiped to get attention. Maybe we used vulnerability to impress them. Or maybe we did the worst injustice to friendship, we were fake. We all have ugly places in our lives.
But friendship, just like painting, is a process where you figure out what drew you to this in the first place. There’s an example of this process in the Artist’s Note.
Good friendship will celebrate the beauty even while we know the grubby side. We can paint the good, relish the good without turning a blind eye to the angles we cannot celebrate.
To carry you into this next season, where we will meet many old friends through the holidays and reunions, here are a few inspiring quotes. Take from my Year of Friendship.
“The first cardinal rule of a friendship: the things that first attract you need to be obvious, nameable virtues.”
“If there’s a silence in the friendship, reach out. Don’t assume they are mad or resentful or distant on purpose. Let them know you miss them. Be steady and show up.”
“Hiding and deceit are the weeds that choke any friendship.”
“Be willing to see the grubby side, be willing to celebrate the beautiful side.”
One of the gifts I’ve created for you this year is my Backporch Conversations podcast with Dale. You can find that for free right here. The episode “How to Honor our Parents” might be particularly helpful for you as the holidays come nearer. Be sure to email us if you have a topic you’d like to hear: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re looking for a gift for one of those “They have everything!” people, I have a recommendation. My newly released 2023 Friendship Calendar. It’s small (easy to ship), it’s one-of-a-kind, and it highlights every friendship holiday each month to remind you to send a card. And, the best part, you get ALL the celebration cards included. One stop shop right here.
If you’re looking for a legacy piece for your grandparents or parents, something they will treasure for decades and pass on to you, why not commission an art piece with me? I have two spots left for Christmas pieces. But I must be booked before Nov 1. Read about what I can offer here. Contact me at email@example.com
The Friendship Posts of 2022
Expecting Better Friendships: Friendship Fountain, Sorting Friendships and Downsizing Friendships
What is a Friend: Balloon Friends, Companions, It is Good You Exist
The Pace of Friendship: Walk with Me, Return the Volley, Trains and Rollercoasters
Growing Friendships: Friends and Flowers, Growing a Friendship, Weeding a Friendship
Healing a Friendship: Forgiveness, The Work of Healing, The Crucial Question
Improving a Friendship: Painting a Friendship, Mutuality: Better Two-Way Friends