I want to tell you about the secret life of paintings. In order to do so, I will have to be specific, which is not my favorite thing to be. You will learn why as we go along. I don’t remember when it happened, I think it was probably two weeks ago, I decided one morning that I wanted to paint Medusa. It had been on my mind for a while to do this, but on this day, I landed on it and pinned it down, decided to do it. It was my mood. I wanted to work with that character or archetype, for it was expressive of something I was feeling, a fierceness, I guess; I was in the mood to turn certain people to stone. Now, I have told you this before, but I will tell it to you again: I am not a drawer. Drawing is my weak suit. But it is part of what I do, I have to draw in order to make the figures I then paint. Drawing is the smallest part of what I do—as I have also told you before, I am not one of those painters who makes elaborate drawings on the canvas and then more or less just colors in the lines. Rather, I make a broad, simple outline of the figure, and then start painting. It is only a guideline, really, the most basic layout of the necessary roads I have to begin to follow in order to eventually arrive at where I’m going. The way I work is this: I paint. But first I must draw if I am painting a figure (I have painted many figures without first drawing them out, but I find that process has self-defeat baked into it, so I do not like to do that). (This is why I do not like specifics—there are too many of them, they are endless once you start elucidating them!) (I do not know how not to tell you everything!) (Which is why it is best when I am telling you nothing.) On this day, I worked hour after hour trying to sketch out a Medusa, I was basing the drawing on an earlier painting I had made of Medusa, this one on paper, I made it years ago. For whatever reason, I was unable to produce an adequate sketch—the figure was fine, but I couldn’t get the balance of the snake hair right. So I kept expunging the drawing and trying again. Finally, in frustration, I decided not to paint Medusa, how could I paint Medusa if I couldn’t get the balance of the snakes right? I decided instead to make a portrait of a woman, she would be sad, this was the emotion besides fierceness I wanted to convey, it was just as necessary to express sadness on that day as fierceness, and I would grid the drawing rather than do it by instinct (I was defeated!), which was an unusual move for me, I haven’t gridded paintings in years, but I like doing it, it is not that I have given it up, it is only that I have been doing other things instead. It is always a tool to return to, is the grid. So then I worked on this painting for many days, she was a saddish woman, though not sad enough. I forgot about her early Medusan history, I forgot all about Medusa. Now I was just concentrated on the painting that was, not the one that was was. One of the decisions I had made about this painting was that the right side of her hair (house right) would not be defined, it would be one with the background, implied only, the brain would finish it, but the painter would not. The left side, on the other hand, was completely defined. In what I thought were the final stages of this painting, I reinforced the line that defined the left side of her hair, and this line had the slightest (unintentional) loop at the crown of her head that brought it back down into itself (that’s what a loop is), and there it was: a snake. That is the secret life of paintings. They will be what they were meant to be, this despite the artist. They remember their history, they remember themselves, and they become themselves out of that memory more than from the random motions of the artist’s arm. Don’t you find that incredible? I do! Unfortunately, there is more I have to tell you about this painting in order to complete the story: Indecision ruined it. You see, thereafter, I could not decide whether I wanted the right side of her hair also to be defined by a snake. I was still in love with my implicit line and was not in any way committed to an explicit one. And yet, now it was Medusa, and she needed a snake! So back and forth I went, painting lines, expunging them, painting them again, taking them away again, back and forth like this, and back and forth, an entire motherlode of dithering, until I had overworked the passage beyond redemption. But here’s the funny thing. A snake did eventually emerge out of this redemptionless painting (I will not be defeated!), and, in the end, these snakes that define my young Medusa’s hair were the same snakes that defined the original failed sketch. What a circuitous route I had taken to get to her, what a serpentine route! But there she was: The thing she had always been. I think it tells us something about paintings. I think it tells us that they exist independent of their mortal makers, they are things in their own right, they are soulful living things with lungs and blood. Which tells us something more: Painting will never die. It is stupid to say that it has or will, it is the assertion of men (and women) when they are blind and unfeeling and close to dumb.