Tai Chi Y2D315: sketch, not painting

Sometimes my daily practice is going to resemble a sketch rather than a fully-executed portrait in oil on canvas with a gilt frame. That’s to be expected. I’m in this for the long haul. I’ve been sick on and off this week — the first serious bout of sickness in the whole time I’ve done tai chi — and I’ve been doing sketches or at most engravings, rather than landscapes or masterpiece tableaux of multiple figures and drapery.

But artists great and small don’t produce a masterpiece every day. That’s not normal, and it’s not sustainable. A great tableau painting with dozens of figures requires sixty or seventy sketches — studies of mass and placement, figure drawing exercises, drapery exercises, light and color studies. These things take time. For every magnificent, wonderful day of tai chi, I’m going to have ten or twenty or fifty that are simply going through the motions.

Like today. Today I went through the motions. It was tedious. My joints didn’t pop, my right leg is almost back to normal after I stopped carrying my wallet in my back pocket, and I can touch my toes ok. Informal. And normal. The heavens and the earth didn’t open, and I wasn’t too sloppy-slide although I wore socks throughout. Yawn.

But we’re building toward one of those days filled with deep insight and real discovery. Maybe next week. Maybe next month, or next season. Or maybe next year. Maybe never. Who can say? In the meantime, we accumulate sketches of the true work, so that we will eventually produce the masterpiece in all its exactitude, precision and fitness.

Of course, once that happens, guess what? It’s time to go back to making sketches.

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