This is not a medieval torture device. But it is one of my favorite new studio tools.
It has one job, and that’s to squeeze all the paint from the tube. And it does it very well. After using it a few times, I can finally rest assured that from this day forth, I will get my money’s worth out of every tube of paint I buy.
A flattened, used-up paint tube is quite a contrast to a fresh one.
There is something about brand new tubes of paint that makes artists giddy. Fresh and unspoiled, they are loaded with potential and brimming with exhilarating possibilities.
On the other hand, the used-up tube of paint is cast aside and disregarded without much thought, replaced by a newer version of itself.
Our culture prizes the allure of youth. We live in fear of gray hair and wrinkles. Like a brand new tube of paint, youth is highly desired and much-coveted. And certainly, a new tube of paint is attractive, valuable, and good.
But the empty tube of paint deserves our respect and is worthy of emulating.
Yes, the old tube is thin, twisted, and wrinkly, marred with dry paint marking its journey of service. But it has fulfilled its destiny. It has achieved its purpose. That why it was made: To contribute what it had — every last drop — to making the world more beautiful.
Most of the time it worked with others taking on a supporting role; sometimes it was cast as the star. Who knows how many paintings it contributed to? Who can measure how much color it brought to the world, how many thoughts it sparked, or days it brightened?
There is always a twinge of fear after twisting off the cap and squeezing the first offering of paint onto the palette. For this is where the rubber meets the road. The disappointing reality of our less-than-perfect results contradicts the juicy possibilities we envisioned.
We might yearn to have that unopened tube back. After all, not every painting it contributed to was a masterpiece. We can imagine the paint tube wondering, “Did I live up to my potential? Was my life a success? Did I make a difference?” It’s tempting to leave the paint in the tube rather than risk wasting the contents — and the potential — within.
But just as ships are not built to stay in the harbor, paint was not made to stay in the tube. A new tube is filled with promise and has much to offer, but if that is how it remains, what a waste.
May you pour forth all of the time, talents, and treasure you have to give for as long as you have the opportunity to give them. You are here to contribute, and your contribution makes the world better.
The spent, empty paint tube with nothing left to give is truly beautiful, for it represents a life well-lived.
To end up like this should be our goal.