My Mother loved to paint and she really was quite good at it.
We ended up taking watercolor lessons at the same time one year but because she was in Florida and I was in North Carolina, we had to rely on phone calls to compare notes; telling each other what was happening in our classes. We’d talk about our favorite paper or brushes or a new paint color we’d discovered. It was fun when we read a book on watercolor and then would buy it send it to the other. Now I have all of her books, brushes, palettes, and a stack of paper that will keep me out of Cheap Joe’s – which is a good thing! It’s so special to pick up one of her brushes and know that she is still with me. She would be so proud that her 7 year old great granddaughter’s paintings has just been chosen to represent her school and will be shown in downtown Charlotte at Spirit Square. Her class has been studying different artists – this time it was Picasso.
Mother had absolutely no fear when it came to painting. She’d try anything. Maybe it was her age or discovering that her paintings were not “precious”. I think having that thought in her mind, forgetting the cost of the paper and the time to complete it – inspired her to just get on with it. There will be lots of not so good paintings done in the course of a class or in a lifetime of painting. It’s all in the process of learning the medium.
I’ve learned that too but I wish she was here to prod me to get on with it and stop doing busy work! I can fill my class time messing with my paints, picking out a triad, or trying endless combinations of the triad. It’s reassuring to know that famous artists frequently painted over things they didn’t like or had not sold. Poor, and I mean that literally, Van Gogh frequently painted over his canvases – he couldn’t afford to purchase new ones. It is thought that up to 1/3 of his pieces have paintings underneath that top layer. Unlike today when painters can become wealthy during their lifetime, most of the old master painters were poor and relied on a patron to be able to eat, buy paints and canvases.
Since 2008, a machine, a Circular Particle Accelerator, fondly called Doris III, has been bringing these hidden masterpieces to light. X-ray machines have been used for years to probe paintings as have near-infra-red scanners which were originally designed to pick up a tank on a battlefield. Later, lasers were used to discover the original colors on Greek monuments, now soft and muted, they were once bright and vivid.
The process with this newest machine is fascinating but I couldn’t explain it for a million dollars! So here is an explanation from someone who uses the machine. “You illuminate the pixel, and the light beam excites the atoms on that pixel, and they re-radiate the light in different wavelengths according to the composition of the atom, in a process called fluorescence,” says Wolfgang Drube, research coordinator at Doris III, at the German electron synchrotron research center in Hamburg.*
Watercolor is supposed to be quick but it’s definitely a hard medium for me because I tend to be a tight painter. It’s my dream to use big brushes and develop a free flowing technique. Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s in my nature. And you know something – Mother was wrong. Her paintings ARE precious. A favorite is of the castle hotel in Oberwesel, Germany. We were all lucky enough to visit this pretty castle several times through the years and it is so special that she painted this castle for my sister and also for me.
All of you young mothers who are finding it hard to save all of the precious artworks that are brought home creased and folded and stuffed into backpacks – I know it’s impossible to save every one of them – but please make the time to take pictures to remember and also to document their learning process along the way. You might be nurturing a young Van Gogh or Monet – and those works will be famous one day!
*The Telegraph>Sept. 23, 2008>Van Gogh painting uncovered by new Xray machine by Harry de Quetteville.
Content: Cottage Arts:Painters Canvas 11
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