Clouds tonight. Blue, the color of cornflowers. At the storm’s terminus, an edge like the soft outline of a Rothko color field. Rain that swirled, torrential, a sky-Pollock.

It is writing that lets me understand art that way.

Art, I have realized relatively late in my life, has been a love I’ve harbored from my first decade, not knowing academically what it was that I loved so naturally. But love it I did, with a passion that had me in Chicago’s Art Institute so often that the guards got to know me.

Art was simple, then. Reading was hard. Life was harder. Writing fell somewhere between the two.

Art presents itself to the viewer. How long he or she spends before it, how long one carries it in the head, is voluntary. A painting does not ask us for an hour, although we may be happy to offer it one. Writing, like its consumption, is more work; it demands a more extended concentration.

Books are a portable delight. Not many people (myself accepted, perhaps) carry around images of the art they love. Most of us must go to art. Or, if we’re lucky, good art presents itself to us on the walls of our own homes.

And yet, as different as writing and painting are, their similarities are great. The stretching of the canvas, the laying down of gesso, the application of layers, dark to light: These are similar in both painting and writing. Art informs the writer’s eye. The writer sees art in color and in words.

And yet, I can’t paint. I did, once. I don’t anymore. But I love all my children, the adopted ones no less than the ones that are, by nature, mine.

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