In truth, the safe harbor here at Ft. Worth is constantly under threat of death by new restriction. I think that this unwanted tension may add a certain edginess to my painting.
There are seldom more than 4 or 5 painters present. Even if my easel partner has grabbed our spot, there is always a vacant place to paint. My partner is prone to abandon his palette and brushes at our spot and spend his time playing pool, just because he can.
We are allowed to purchase our supplies solely from Dick Blick Art Materials. There is a 30% mark-up added to the price of each order by the prison, just because they can. It used to be 5%, but hey, it's their world. They also get free shipping from Blick, and pocket our individual shipping charges. The supplies that we are allowed to order are
extremely limited, and often non-sensical. For example, we are only allowed to order one particular mechanical pencil, that by some fluke, in the Blick catalog , has an "AP" next to it. "AP" means that the item is approved 100% chemically safe for use. This designation is supposed to accompany supplies containing chemicals, so that kiddies can eat them with impunity. "AP" is not meant for inert objects, like pencils. However, at this time we cannot order the lead refills because they do not have an "AP" safe notation.
"But it doesn't make sense that we can order the pencil but not the leads for it," says I. ..."You should have thought of that before you came to prison" smirks 'Boss'. This is a phrase from prison newspeak. Any legitimate complaint, be it food or filth gets the same response. "You should have thought of that before you came to prison."..."Why ya bringin' up old stuff?" Hell, I've been here since the bureaucratic turd was pooping yellow. The 'Boss' will not listen to reason.
We are currently at an impasse. He will however let us order non "AP" paper. It is easier to trade a few postage stamps or a package of mackerel,(our currency),for leads stolen from education than it is to argue.
I show 'boss' the health warning label on the toothpaste we buy from commissary. yep, nothing is free in prison. If i want salt on my food, i have to buy salt . And toothpaste; have you ever read the warning label on your toothpaste? 'contact
poison control center or seek medical attention if accidentally ingested'-and we put this in our mouths a recommended 3 times per day. Thank god our pencils are "AP" approved.
We are allowed to work on 3 projects at a time, which must be approved in advance. We can obtain a maximum of 8 approvals and must mail them out to an approved recipient before we can obtain more approvals. This presents a problem. Until all 8 are dry and 'boss' feels like doing a bit of work , like conducting a mail-out, we are not allowed to paint unapproved paintings. Yeah. Right.
Sometimes 'Boss' will want precise descriptions on the project approval form. This may not seem like much, but it has consequences. If the 'Boss' determines that you are working on other than an approved project, he may confiscate your 'illegal' painting. if he's been fighting with his wife, he might suspend you from the art room for a period of time.
I enter 'landscape' for my description on the project approval form. He says, "a landscape of what?" Jeez,who cares? What difference could it make? He's just used to guys copying photos. "A landscape of a barn, or a tree for example", he says. Sort of constricts one's creativity wouldn't you think? So I put 'abstract' in the project space. He says" an abstract of what?" ..."Well...It's not any 'thing'!" I answer." It's a painting of an idea." This is a new concept to him. He scratches his head as he processes this . "Gotcha!". I have crossed the Rubicon. He nods his assent. "AL-RIGHT!" Now i can paint abstracts of pretty much anything that i wish. Sometimes we manage small victories to savor.