When I was a kid, I used to cut out of school and walk home on the train tracks. Being thirteen wasn’t going very well, and those walks had a calming effect on me; I think it was the only time I ever really got left alone. Walking behind the subdivisions, I’d see the backs of houses, back yards and woods. It was like being back stage and seeing the play happen from the wings.
One time, I came along a dog, sitting upright and alert a few yards from the tracks. When I got closer, I realized that the dog was dead, probably hit by a train, but had made it off the tracks and died sitting upright. As days and weeks went by, I’d pass the dead dog and notice how it was gradually decomposing. Eyes sinking into the skull, patches of hair falling off. It was disgusting, but fascinating. Here was this thing going on, one of those things that is so visceral and relevant that they won’t even show it on TV without a warning first, and as far as I knew, I was the only witness. Ever since then, when I don’t know what else to do, I take a walk, and I can always find something worth looking at long enough to paint it.