This is one of my recent daubings, not too serious, that I used as a demonstration to show a friend that she too could paint. I simply put on a ground of ochre then painted on the heart. Then I used a stencil and a thin wash of the same red to make the pattern behind it. It’s the kind of task non-painters can tackle because they will get a simple image that looks good, and then they have learned to hold a brush, mix paints, applied an underpainting, experienced an opaque use of paint and a transparent one.
There’s a story behind this.
Both of us live alone. With no significant other, as euphemistically each of us are, Valentines Day comes with no one to celebrate it with. The phone was ringing off the hook, you understand, but I’ve been screening my calls because Otto, my brother, is harassing me over family matters and I don’t want to talk to him.
While I was out getting my hair trimmed and set, Robert Redford left a message to say that he was stuck down at Sundance with his business concerns but wished me a fabulous Valentines Day. Despite his wrinkles, he could put his shoes under my bed any time.
I’m rather fickle, now that I’m single, so the calls kept flooding in. Paul Gross, Harrison Ford, William Petersen (CSI’s Gil Grissom), and on and on. But despite their jet setting life-styles, somehow none of these offers turned into a concrete commitment for a wine and dine.
Late Thursday, I had a chat with my good friend Doreen who similarly was in a quandry. Whom to choose from all the good offers?
On Saturday, she phoned around nine. She didn’t feel like a Valentines fling and she hadn’t accepted any of them. In preference, she opted for a quiet evening, a bottle of wine, a sane conversation. She thought she would just stay home. Except the day was beautifully sunny and she had a friend, Jacqueline, who had just moved into my town and since Doreen was coming all the way out to see her friend’s new house, could come out and see me at the same time? Perhaps we could both see Jacqueline and then Jacqui would have a contact in town.
It would have to be in the afternoon. Jacqueline was going to Bedford House with her devoted husband for SVD dinner at six. Anyway, we would want to meet Jacqueline without Steve because, well, you know, the conversation changed the minute you inserted a man into it. No more conversations about recent pedicures, past loves and high school beaux, gardening finds, kitchen recipes.
I suggested that Doreen stay for dinner. A good bottle of wine and some conversation was in order. And so it was arranged like that.
On Friday, I had a funny day. I had a client coming to see my art work. The client was proposing a showing of my art work in the lobby of her business. The house had been cleaned up beautifully and I needed it clean for Friday week when I was having my next Art Salon. There’s no point in cleaning up twice.
Once my visitor left, I just couldn’t get started at anything else. The house looked unfamiliar because everything was tidy and put away. I didn’t know where to start. I sat in front of the television watching the CBC news, the business report, Don Newman’s Politics, the weather, even a bit of sports. Now there’s another man who could offer his shoes….
I washed my few dishes. I picked up the pile at the front door, all of which is slated to be delivered or disposed of elsewhere than my house. I decided to deal with the infamous package of a small baby crib blanket that I had made for a friend in Mexico who had just produced her first, an exquisite little boy. I had wrapped it in a gold gift bag complete with a bit of bright coloured tissue paper thinking that, if they opened it at the border, they would not have to destroy a beautiful wrapping job. This fit very nicely into a plain small liquor store box, the kind that holds twelve bottles.
Previously in the week, I had taken this to the Laity Street post office and the clerk brought out her measuring tape.
“Before you start putting it through as a sale, could you please tell me how much it will cost to go surface?” I asked.
Through half glasses, she looked up at me sternly, “Surface is $59.50. If you want to send it airmail, it’s only $75.00.” Her gaze held me, waiting for an answer.
Gadzooks! That was incredible! What on earth had happened to our postal system!
“For Pete’s sake” I expostulated. “It’s a third of the return air fare to go there. I’ll deliver it myself!”
I took the box away from her, asking “Does size matter?” She disdained a reply. She was already dealing with someone else.
So on this Friday, I found a clean shoe box. I took away the fancy gift bag, wrapped the blanket in a pristine white Kitchen Catcher plastic bag and stuffed it into the box. It just fit. The card that went with it almost made it too much – a final straw – but I taped the box shut with clear packing tape and it would hold. I wrapped it in Kraft paper and then addressed it to Dianella and went off to the post office at 224th Street in the drugstore.
When I got there, there was a small line-up. The customer at the counter kept looking back at the three of us waiting, apologizing, “Sorry, this is taking so long.” He hesitated a few seconds and nervously turned back to us again, “Sorry. So sorry.”
It didn’t matter to me. I had time. But as I often do, I started to make some wisecrack out loud, just in case I could entertain myself with a conversation. The woman ahead of me replied and we had quite a conversation. I told her that I hadn’t lived in this community long, and she confessed that she had only been here two weeks.
“Are you visiting or have you moved here?” I asked.
“Oh, we just moved here.”
“What made you choose Whonnock?” I asked. Our town is a bit obscure and out in the sticks.
“My husband has retired and but he’s still working two days a week with a Veterinarian here.” Her accent sounded English accent. Well, it wasn’t really a clear English accent. I eventually asked her where she came from and I remembered her saying Australia.
She asked me what I did and I told her I was retired, but that I was starting a gallery and studio in my house.
You know how hard it is sometimes when you move to a new community. You don’t know where things are and you don’t know the best place to buy your vegetables. You would like a referral to a doctor or a dentist but you don’t know whom to ask. She was really a friendly natural sort, so I offered her my business card and promised her a cup of tea or coffee, her choice, if she would like to come to visit. She said her name was Jacqui and I promptly forgot it.
She was delighted and said she would come, but she and her husband were going to Hawaii for a month. She’d get in touch with me in April when she got back. She loved art and she would be just thrilled to come see my work.
By that time, the line moved forward, she became engaged with the post mistress and when she was done, it was my turn. We waved each other good bye and that was that.
The post mistress measured my shoe box and informed me that surface mail would cost $14.00 and if I wanted to send it air, it would cost $27.00. There was no tracking on the surface mail, but I could insure it for $100.00 and if it did not arrive in six weeks, I could claim the insurance.
“So!” I reflected out loud “Size does matter!”
“Yes,” she said, conversationally, and next time you might think of using a bubble wrap envelope that we sell, if it’s something that can’t break. It’s so light that it reduces the cost as well.”
I went away happy. I’m still planning that trip to Mexico, but I don’t have to do it right away now; and Dianella will have the blanket for her baby before he has outgrown it.
Doreen arrived on Saturday and we had a good bowl of hearty soup before we went off to her friends place at two. I recounted my adventure at the post office and told her I had really enjoyed the woman’s company. It would be great if she took me up on coming for tea.
“There’s a lot of construction going on here. Even with this recession going on, this community is going strong. Here and Vancouver, it was officially reported that there is no slowdown in housing starts. Everywhere else the reports of job losses are devastating. I just can’t imagine what those poor people will do without jobs, ” I commiserated.
We got in the car after lunch. I had the map and navigated. I couldn’t find the exact address and we went down Kanaka Creek Road to a dead end and never found our cross street. Doreen called her friend and we retraced our route, found Lougheed Highway again and then our cross street that would take us up into a new housing development of Whistler-style chalets – all duplexes, all the same. The landscaping had not yet been done. Each place had a double garage. Each was perched on a hillside. There were lovely views out the back of the Kanaka Creek Park Reserve and on the other side, interesting repeating views of rooftops and gables. All was spanking brand new.
We found the house number and parked the car on the steep driveway. Doreen knocked on the door. The door opened and the woman answering gave a huge hug to Doreen and they chattered a bit in greeting. I stared in confusion. I’ve got a bit of short term memory loss these days and I knew the face but I couldn’t place it.
“I know you!” I said, a bit challenging, a bit challenged. “I’ve met you before! But where?”
“The Post office! I talked to you at the post office yesterday.”
“Of course, ” I answered, relieved. It wasn’t someone I had known for a long time. I wasn’t really insulting someone with my faulty memory.
“Too much!” declared both Doreen and Jacqueline. “That’s just too funny! I can’t believe it!.
“When you told me you met someone yesterday, you said they came from Australia. Jacqueline is from South Africa. I never thought to put the two together. Isn’t that a hoot!”
To cover my embarassment, I said, “You were supposed to come to my house for tea, not the other way round. Isn’t this amazing!”
So we went in and had a cup of tea and a wonderful chat. Jacqueline truly is a lovely woman – graceful, gracious, interesting, accomplished. I’m impressed. She will be, if she too wishes it, a great friend.
So then Jacqueline recounted how she had come home from the Post office and recounted her day to her husband.
“What is is with all these Kay’s?” she had said. “Doreen told me she was bringing her friend who lives here out to meet me tomorrow; then I meet this one in the Post Office; and then, we just met one last week. Where are they all coming from, all of a sudden?”
We spent a good half hour dissecting this coincidence:
How had I not remembered that she came from South Africa not Australia?
I confessed that I had guessed Australia then when corrected, my brain did not register it. Anyway, it hadn’t been hugely important, that fact, so I was just telling the story and Australia was good enough for someone you might never see again. It wasn’t a critical piece of information.
Why hadn’t Doreen connected the information? Well, Kay had said the people were from Australia, and Doreen’s friends were from West Vancouver. Kay hadn’t known that Jacqueline had been living in West Vancouver before they moved here.
Why hadn’t Kay remembered Jacqueline’s face and name, yet she the story was important enough to recount it to Doreen? No answer on that one – Kay was simply a bit memory challenged now.
We had a good three hour visit – a tour of the house and gardens, a cup of tea, and one of those conversations that ranged from toenail varnishing to medical science discoveries (Doreen being in the field of endeavour) .
When Doreen and I got back home for dinner, we decided that if we were going to get a visit in, ourselves, that we would crack the bottle of wine and she would stay overnight so she could enjoy her glasses of wine and not have to drive afterwards.
After dinner, I promised to show her how to paint. She with the PhD claimed to be an art dummy. I pride myself on being able to get anyone started on the ruinous addiction of painting. We had two small canvases to work with. No point in biting off more than you can chew in one evening.
This amazing friend five foot two blond not only can tell you the latest in DNA research, she has installed her own hardwood floors in her apartment, built her own furniture, painted her entire apartment herself, sewn her own drapes, but she tells me she can’t paint – artistically, that is.
I gave her a dab of yellow ochre and a small house painting bristle brush and bade her to cover the entire surface of her canvas with the ochre. Then we had a glass of wine and while we let it dry. With acrylics, this is fast. By the time we’d finished glass number one, I gave her a dab of cadmium red and asked her to paint a heart on the canvas. I had a similar canvas prepared with yellow ochre and I demonstrated the heart. She followed.
While that dried, I repeated to her my lessons on composition (which you can find way back somewhere in these posts). I had a paper lace doily at hand so I demonstrated how one could cut up the background space with other shapes to make the composition more interesting.
She had her own ideas about how she would add to her two basic elements but wanted to think about how that would look. We repaired to the living room and sat back down with glass of wine number two for a bit of conversation while, multi-tasking, she decided what else she could do to complete her painting.
The results of hers were just great for a first painting! Brushphobia has diminished considerably. She claims that it was fun! so perhaps she will do it again.And no, for the moment you don’t get to see it. I ‘ll have to ask her permission to post it, so check back if later if you are interested.
Painting is one of those things – if you like it, it keeps drawing you in bit by bit until you are addicted (in a very positive way) to its wiles. It takes you away from the trials of daily life. It allows one to engage in a mental activity much akin to meditation where the single stroke of a brush can be the most important task at hand; or the exact mix of a grey is a crucial and pleasant artistic decision.
And there, my friends, is the story behind this little decorative painting, sitting in Doreen’s back-pack at the front door, waiting the time of departure; and I have her first effort sitting on my easel.
The Dreaded Valentines has come and gone