“RED!” Kojo answered without any hesitation. He marched with the rolled up butcher paper tucked under his arm. After taping one side to the wooden floor, he watched as the other end rolled back to its original cylindrical state. He rolled the free end back and forth filled with the excitement of a scientist on the cusp of a new discovery.
We taped the other end to the floor. He paused a moment to capture the papers sudden static state. With the sound of silence, he moved his feet all over the paper to the music in his head. The paper began to crinkle happy to be moving again.
I took the cap of the red marker off and asked him to lay down. It took several minutes before he surrendered to stillness. As soon as he saw the marker approach his arm, he jumped up to get a better look. I did my best to outline the moving target laying below.
“Is that me?” He asked following the series of red marks on the paper. “Where’s my head?” I pointed to the strange pear shape attached to the rest of the blob.
“Now let me trace you.”
I laid down on the hard wooden floor a bit dizzy from the movement. The ground seemed so much more uncomfortable for me than him. My body felt heavy and lifeless. He opened the red marker and I braced myself. He started at my head and I flinched. He circled my body and then began to scribble round and round close to my ear.
“That’s your hair.” His nose was now marked red over his satisfied smile.
I got up slowly and then opened the paints, rolled over some brushes and pushed the can of jumbo colored pencils closer to the paper canvas.
The bamboo brush crushed under his weight into the pink paint block. He rubbed it round and round before brown caught his eye. He hopped the brush to the new color and watched as the pink disappeared under the brown paste. Heavy with paint he turned to the paper and moved his arm in almost perfect arcs. The white paper was slowly disappearing under him.
He tried the big brush, square brush, hard brush and soft brush. He took mental notes of each experience. His palette was now an autumn landscape and the blocks of paint had no visible boarders.
“Can I try the drumstick brushes?”
I had no idea what he was referring to but inspired by his focus, I quickly located two rhythm sticks. I dipped one in blue paint and the other in yellow.
He began to drum and the paper played along capturing a bit of paint with each bang. He refilled his drumstick brushes several times. To his left, the paper filled with yellow, to his right, with blue and somewhere in the middle, a quiet green appeared.
I found corks, a stamp, an old plastic tiger and left them for the artist. He never once stood back to ponder or contemplate his next move, criticize the color palette, or wonder when he would know when the painting was done. Rather, he was completely involved in the feeling of the wet paint on his hands and on his tools, the smell of the spongy brush, and the weight of the brushes as he spun them on the canvas.
I watched and felt such an honor to be in the presence of a master.
Tomorrow, I will write my slice by hand with a big red marker but not without dancing all over the paper first.