Portrait of the artist

Learn to live from the inside, the bull’s eye of your true being. -Sandra Walston

The large stain that has formed around the trashcan located near the southwest entrance to Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park is clearly a woman in a fedora. She stands tall, her feet planted strongly on the ground, her right arm lifted high in the air.

Stain for Attitude (Fort Greene Park)

You snap the picture, you go home and draw the woman, you paint her. Throughout the process, you listen for the title, but it never reveals itself. It’s odd; normally the pieces tell you what to call them, sometimes as soon as you snap the picture of whatever stain or crack that inspires it.

Later that evening, you show the piece to a couple of your friends during a Zoom happy hour. Do they have any ideas for a title?

 “Call it Attitude,” one of them says without hesitation.

Attitude (18 May 2020)

You don’t necessarily love this title. The woman in the painting is beautifully dressed and coiffed, and she appears quite confident, but she doesn’t have an attitude. And yet it’s the word you write on the back of the piece. It’s the title you give it. Why do you do this? Why don’t you wait a while longer for something else to pop into your head? There must be a more fitting title than Attitude, right?


Your friend’s title is perfect; the heart knows this. The woman’s stance suggests forward movement; there is change on the horizon, there is an opportunity to make positive adjustments to an attitude that has, up until now, prevented her from fully accepting her authentic self.

“You painted yourself,” the youngest of your three brothers exclaims when he sees Attitude.

You don’t agree. There is, of course, the right arm and hand that evoke your guitar playing, but nothing more. The woman herself is far too beautiful to be you, far too cool. And the confidence! Look at her! She’s flat as a board and yet rocking a tube top without any kind of padded strapless bra! Are you kidding? You would never have had the courage to do that pre-breast implants! It wouldn’t have looked good!

Ultimately, though, your brother is right.

It is the child in your heart who conceived of this portrait, who guided your hand in painting it. This is you the way Toothpick sees you. The way even you, with a little change in attitude, can one day see yourself: a beautiful, cool woman brave enough to rock the body God gave her.

You have the courage inside you to do this; the painting shows you where: at the bull’s eye, the center of your being. Your heart.

Thank you to Sandra Walston for her piece Bull’s-Eye Courage (21 September 2021, https://www.sandrawalston.com/2021/09/courage-hitting-the-bulls-eye/)

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