Years ago, I was at the Louvre and stood in line to see the Monalisa. The first thought I had in mind was how small it was. I stood on my toes to see above the heads of Japanese tourists as I struggled to see the painting now behind security glass. It was the first and only time I was at the Louvre. I had carefully planned the trip, and all the paintings I was going to see. I wanted all the Renaissance, Impressionists, Expressionists with a good measure of Fauvism thrown in. The Monalisa was a must. I cannot say I was enchanted by it, nor was I impressed. I was more surprised about the size of the painting. When seen in art books it seemed deceivingly big. I put down my experience as my lack of appreciation for a painting considered by most to be one of the most famous painting of all. Later, I bought a postcard at the gift shop and holding it in my hands could really see it. I put it in my bag and forgot about it. Later it wound up as a bookmark in one of the novels, and many years later as I pulled that book off the shelf, the postcard slipped and fell. As I stooped to pick it up, I remembered my trip and the white caps of the Japanese tourists that hid most of the bottom part of the frame of the Monalisa. I wish I was able to see the real painting up close.
In all my art classes, we had lovely huge books with art masterpieces and their explanations, their descriptions. Inspired by our genuinely enthusiastic professor, we took trips to see art. We went to big museums, small galleries, met artists in residence, attended workshops with sculptors, painters, potters. And closer to our own creativity, we dipped our brushes in paint and coloured white canvases, we took red clay in our hands and molded into figurines. I particularly loved kneaded white fireclay before throwing it on the wheel and raising it to form bowls or cups. A kiln at the shed of the art building would then be lit to fire the bowls. We all wanted to create beauty, express a thought, flirt with an emotion. I cannot speak for others, but I find that to be true in my case, whether through gardening, writing, painting, even yoga. In a way, we are all artists in our own rights, we each try to express, impress, share that which is most important at that particular moment. Creativity is a mystery and a fabulous one at that. What would our world be like if no one painted, or made music, or wrote poetry or sang songs, cooked food. Or even let our imagination, which is the guiding force for creation, be tamed and docketed? I am a great believer in retaining as much of the unexpected as possible, in every aspect of life. Let the weed that has found its way through the path remain, admire its resilience. When winter comes, it will fade away. When the paint brush slides to make a mark where you did not intend, smile at your ineptness and paint over. If you sing off-key in the shower, then go on singing. We are not perfect, we can strive to be, of course. But along the way, we can embrace our imperfections.
Maybe the Monalisa did not need to be bigger. Maybe Leonardo could already capture and express everything he wanted within the small canvas. There was no need for any change. Or was there? But like all great artists and visionaries, he knew that there is no perfection. I like to think of him perched on his stool, his plank in front putting the final touches to his idealized portrait of the lady, wondering if the smile was enigmatic enough, maybe the landscape was too soft and blurry? Ah well, he thinks, wiping his brush on the cloth, for now, this is good.