New Respect

Here is my entry into the it-was-a dark-and-stormy-night, worst-opening-line competition:  Pain… that’s what I was in, in spades.

It started as discomfort and gradually grew.

I am familiar with the pain scale, along with the icons depicting a person’s face without pain (#1) all the way to pain that a person could not stand (#10). My pain grew to 8. I have never had that level of pain before. I can’t imagine pain at level 10. Fortunately, the pain cycled between 2-3 and 8.  Finally, at 3:30 AM, my wife took me to the emergency room. During the ride, the pain level hovered about #5, until I got nauseated.  Have you ever heard the sound a cat makes right before expelling a hair ball?  I understand why they do that now.

Kidney stones.

After the CT scan, the doc said I had a pretty big stone: 5×7.  I work at a picture framing shop so I immediately thought of the standard 5×7 photographs that people bring in to frame. Cripes!  I couldn’t have a ‘wallet size’ kidney stone? The doc corrected me. “Millimeters,” he said.

Today’s watercolor experiment:

I sat down in my studio to paint. The pain meds were working and I wanted to try painting a representation of my pain.  That is tough to do. Given the (merciful) fact that one’s capacity to remember pain is limited plus the difficulty in describing feelings visually, I had a lot to think about.

I began by showing the origin of the pain. I used my flesh tone formula (cadmium red, titanium white and yellow ochre) to create my lower abdominal area. This form stretched from upper middle left to lower middle right of the paper. Then I laid down a cadmium red spot at the place where it started hurting, and red arcs radiating from there.  I left the right portion of the paper blank for the time being.

To show the cyclic nature of the pain, I painted blue wavy lines, with a variety of blues in my palette (ultramarine, cerulean, turquoise, Prussian and indanthrone).

I decided that the right portion of the paper should be representational. I painted a kidney shape with a ‘5×7’ stone inside, as well as a tube with that same stone.  I painted orange waves and an ultramarine blue ribbon shape to surround the kidney. To complement this, I painted a wide orange ribbon from the lower left to envelope the pain-targeted area.

This is the result:

Watercolor: Abstract Representation of Pain From Kidney Stone

Kidney Stone
12″x16″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block


I have a new respect for people in pain. I will think twice about helping them by saying, “Relax, breathe slowly and deeply.” That didn’t work for me. How can one relax when in pain? I imagine that if one were well practiced in meditation, it might be possible to redirect the pain impulses to unconsciousness.  As for me, I just wanted to get into a comfortable position. Nothing else mattered.

I have a better idea of what it is like for people who are in pain. I wish I had a better way to help them other than standing by, saying, “You’ve got to relax.”


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