My mornings are made up of soft scraping noises.
Each night I think, tomorrow I will be a bear. Or, tomorrow I will be a heart. Or, tomorrow I will be a manís face.
Today I am a blinking eye, or maybe ten eyes in various stages of blinking. The colors are pink, blue, and white. Multiple colors makes it more difficult, but also more satisfying.
Art is not a shameful thing, my parents tell me, but it is a childish thing. You can grow out of being a child, but you can never grow out of shame.
But things are only childish if you approach them as a child. When I scrape too deep, I use micropipettes to fill in the gaps and hold my hand very still until the color dries again. A child cannot do that. I suppose that makes this shameful.
I made the scrapers from needles, melted the tips together and filed them sharp and thin. They have a wall in my room, sorted by shape and size. The very first one I made, poor misshapen thing that it was, hangs in a special place apart from the rest. It was almost unusable. The uneven edges put deep scratches through the color and into the whitish surface of my nails if I wasnít careful. Still, it was the first to prick my fingers and so like a first lover I keep hold of its memories fondly.
Sometimes the art doesnít come out so well. I tried to etch wind, and people thought it was cat-clawings or marks on a blackboard. Fear was worse, sound impossible. Abstract nouns, it seems, do not reveal themselves so easily. I still try.
Shading is also hard, but more attainable. It just requires more layers, more time, better planning. One of the pieces I am most proud of was light coming through leaves. Two shades of yellow, white, green, black, three shades of gray, light brown. I etched it on a Saturday, and it took eight painstaking hours.
I didnít have that kind of time today, so the eyes are flat and uninterested, without the flashing intelligence that eyes sometimes have. Maybe they are eyes going to sleep, instead of eyes blinking. Maybe they are the eyes of teachers and bosses and parents, instead of the eyes of Gandhi.
An art teacher told me in high school that I should try painting, or sculpting, or any other form of real art. I told her I am already doing those things and she gave a painful little grimace and said that real art can be displayed and critiqued (and I thought, are you not doing that right now? But I was silent). I could even, she said, keep this same technique and just put it on a backing of wood or porcelain. My canvases could be bigger and I wouldnít have to finish the pieces in a single morning, I could spread out the work over months if I wanted.
And I said yes, yes, I will think about it, thank you. My nails are a part of me and so my art is a part of me, and though how I feel changes each day you want me to put it on some alien surface and spread my feelings thin over days and weeks, like a teaspoon of jam over a yearís worth of toast. Yes, that is a wonderful idea, thank you so much.
I do not take pictures of them and I canít put my fingers in art galleries, if any would even take them, but I do not regret this. No one goes to art galleries anymore, and certainly not every day. One day is not long enough to know a person. One day is nothing at all, just a phase in a transition in an overall evolution of self.
Each evening I dip my fingers in acetone and am washed clean. In the morning I am something new. A gaping maw. Tears. A story.