Did I ever tell you that I own five of those overstuffed cushy rockers from the 40s that sit on stationary wooden feet? They all have different fabric patterns and colors, their wooden arms are each a bit different, a few are more worn than the others but they all go together like a klatsch of old friends. I found three of them, each in a different neighborhood on the island, booted from their nests, sitting forlornly on the road, looking woefully out of place among the brambles and weeds, desperate for a new and loving home. Who was I to ignore their quiet pleas? So here they now all sit together, happy and jolly again and I am glad because I love old things, well-loved things like chairs and china, paintings and porcelain, that have a history and a story.
I like to think I paint “old.” I paint to tell a story and I paint to explore how a piece of art, whether it’s on canvas or a mural on a wall, can be part of so many families and so many lives and times. Often, when I have the opportunity to meet people who ask about my work and inspiration, I like to have them see the painting as a bit of a much larger piece, so that perhaps it was cut out of a grand plastered wall of a Paris mansion, or pulled from a frame or hidden behind a grand ancient armoire. Paint splashes over paint, hiding a hydrangea or a peony or a cherry branch that was there before–you can see the petals silhouetted in the background. Flowers and color extend beyond the size of the canvas, a swath of blue or red or orange might cover the bottom where at another time and another age, things and circumstances changed and parts of the original image were altered, remodeled, redone.
Have you ever worked on an old house? You yank the crumbling molding surrounding a window and there, underneath, a sweet faded bit of wallpaper is revealed, a long time hidden and out of view but just as pretty as it ever was.
That’s what inspires and thrills me: the patina of time, the history and romance of what came before.
So that all said, you can imagine how I felt when I stumbled upon a somewhat rickety soft blue wicker basket at one of my favorite thrift spots in Langley on Whidbey Island. (It’s Good Cheer Thrift if you must know, but keep it yourself!) I like to store my paints and brushes in wicker baskets like these and I knew it would fit right in with the group I’ve collected over the years.
But once I got it home and was admiring the aged blue on the slats, a paper thin coral and red Saturday yard sale Chinese lantern–a veteran of many a party it would seem– lay nearby and the color combination was one I really fell in love with! Not to mention the little birds on the lantern, so stylized and beautiful.
I gathered up the basket and the lantern–the new best friends–and introduced them both to a weathered old beach board I found stuck in the sand just days earlier, a bit of bright green seaweed still clinging to it. Blue, red, coral, orange. What could be sweeter…except when pink arrived. A tiny bouquet–a much appreciated gift!–with a combination of hues, some deep, some shy and light.
I sat and stared at all of them sitting there and the tones and contrasts, the easy familiarity and loveliness of the pigments made me feel so happy.
I grabbed my frescoed pink canvas and I started to paint, colors inspired by a basket, a lantern, a board and a teeny bouquet.