Art Lesson: Keep The Best Part

I prefer to think of art as unknowable, although I have learned how to complete a painting even when I feel lost in it. If only I could remember to apply the lessons of art to relationships with Muses, I’d be writing this post at the beach, curled up next to the Almost Muse, rather than perched at this table. Or, I wouldn’t even be thinking of the Almost Muse. If I applied the following Art Lesson to every moment of my life, all I would be doing right now is defining the strongest and most appealing part of my life, intentionally defining it as “the best,” and doing everything within my power to support it.

Now that I think of it: this table is great. I want to keep it. And my dog, and the couch I moved cross-country twice (in case I needed it while on sabbatical, in case I died and my daughter wanted it but didn’t want to pay shipping fees— a couch that transcends anxiety and objectification when presented as an act of love— that kind of couch). Yes. For sure. There are things: many things, many beings, many solid and beautiful parts of my life I would not trade for an Almost Muse— at least not today.


This Art Lesson was taught to me by my dear friend, songwriting guru Pat Pattison. Pat and his Forever Muse were visiting my place. Somehow, we got the bright idea to co-paint (rather than co-write). We found ourselves with small, messy canvas between us. The paint was muddy, ugly. The composition, non-existent. We had basically smeared paint on the canvas, all the colors. It was dark and unformed. “We can’t save it,” I said, “It’s too far gone.”

“No,” Pat said, “It’s like songwriting…”

Pat explained. When a lyric is a mess— when there are too many words on the canvas— what one must do is select the best words and then craft the rest of the lyrics in such a way that they support the best part.

The idea made sense to me, so I pointed out the best part of painting. We all agreed it was the best— and that “the best” is (at best) subjective— it’s fortunate, like a hit song, when everyone agrees. We discussed the shapes and colors, shared ideas for what we might paint in order to support the best part of the painting. Pat then took a credit card out of his wallet and scraped it across the canvas, across the part we had defined as “the best.”

“Always be aware,” he said, “The best part is bound to change.”


I do my best.

The best is subjective.

The best is bound to change.

Even though it breaks the rules of improv, the best has a place in this world and in art.

My couch supports me.

What Muse?


Photo: “My Head,” acrylic on canvas, 18×24 in, Rachel Kice, 2016ish

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