Accepting the Torch

My spirit has been riding in this body for forty years now – I was born forty years ago next June but I would have had brain cells and such by this time, forty years ago, even though I hadn’t yet tried the outside air.

It hit me hard today.   As I was reading an article about craft traditions that are now practiced by a bare few, I realized that it’s my turn to bring the things that I value into the future.  I want a college student twenty years from now to fall in love with Sumi-e, or to feel the touch of washi paper, or see a real indigo dyed piece of cloth, or paint with oils, or know how nice it is to write a letter with a real pen.

It’s not a burden to bear alone, thank goodness, but I can do a great service to the future by adding my interest and support to the traditions I want to see continue.  So can you, if you want to.  Every one of us who loves something and shows it, helps it stay in the world and not be forgotten.  Maybe for you it’s your grandmother’s sticky bread that nobody else knows how to make just right, or a breed of dog that’s rare and misunderstood.  Maybe it’s something else.

So I’ll keep baking my own sourdough that never knew the touch of a stand mixer.  I’ll practice my ink painting.  I’ll keep shifting my own gears and cooking on a gas flame.  I’ll keep learning about oil painting.  Sometime, I’ll save up and buy an iron tea kettle made lovingly by hand.  When I can, I’ll buy real washi paper from Japan, not an imitation, and make sure to get it from one of the places that still uses the old methods.   The money used to buy those things will help crafters and tradesmen keep the lights on just a bit longer.

It doesn’t take a huge effort, it doesn’t have to become some kind of holy cause.  I accept this burden, which isn’t so heavy after all, this torch, to keep and guard and carry so that someone can take it from me in the future.

The painting here is my first full size oil painting.  I see a lot of issues with it, as with any first effort, however there were also some of the fabled happy accidents and I learned from it.  The sumi-e up in the header is another thing I’ve picked up again, my first painting in that medium in quite some time.  I promise I’ll get better!

 

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Fiction – Joy of Painting – Season 31

Here is one of perhaps two or three Joy of Painting fanfics and probably the only Joy of Painting alternate universe fanfics that exist.

The painter brushed the last tufts of grass on the painting, unmindful of the lights and cameras behind him. He picked up his palette knife and made scratches in the paint, here, there, everywhere.

“Now we’re going to take our knife and put in all the little sticks and twigs and things, all the little doers that will make people think you spent hours on this with a one hair brush.” He turned his head and smiled. “And we won’t tell ’em any different, it’s our secret. Now we’re not in it to sell paintings, but if you happen to want to, things like this will really make ’em stand out.” He worked for a bit more until he was satisfied.

“Looks like we’ve got ourselves a painting,” he said. “Now let’s give it a signature. As always we use a script liner brush and some permanent red, with a tiny bit of paint thinner till we have a consistency about like ink…”

As he continued his familiar patter, he found himself wondering what he was going to do with himself now that he had completed his thirtieth season. No one else knew it yet, though he was sure his producer suspected, but he was just minutes away from announcing that he wouldn’t be back to Muncie. Even at fifty-one he felt the creak of winter in his bones, the slow march of age, both relics of a hard life. He wanted some time to walk in the same beloved woods he’d been painting for years, just enjoy them without fear of busting leave or letting down the recruits.

In the luggage back at the hotel were title papers for a little cabin a few miles outside Anchorage, the same place he’d lived for more than a decade. It was the same kind of place he’d painted countless times. It sat on ten acres of forest, had its own well and a good woodstove, and best of all it was situated right near a singing little brook that he could listen to as he went to sleep.

The thought of the cabin made him smile as he gave his final farewell.

“And from all us here, happy painting, and God bless, my friends.” He waved at the camera and the paint spattered camera operator.

Right now said camera operator was looking at him with a little concern. “You all right, Bob?”

“Yeah, just a little stiff today. Seven episodes in one day has to be a record, even for me.” Bob wiped a sneaky tear from his cheek. “Thirty seasons. That’s a lot of paintings.”

“It sure is,” said Ralph the camera man. “Well, at least we get a little break now. For a few weeks at least, because I heard we’re doing another season.”

Bob was just opening his mouth to say something when Shirley burst in. She was the office lady out front and she rarely entered the studio proper.

“Mr. Ross?” she asked. “There’s someone to see you.”

“Who is it?” Even though he had to be careful these days, Bob liked visitors.

“Well, that’s the odd thing.” Shirley adjusted her glasses as if she wasn’t seeing straight. “He says his name is Rob, that you’ll know him, and he kinda looks like a clean cut version of you.”

“Rob’s here?” Bob’s face split in a grin. He hadn’t seen his twin since they met on mutual leave, oh, twenty years ago, and Rob had told him he’d been accepted into the Army Rangers. Rob was intensely private, as was Bob, and he’d never mentioned this brother on the air.

He dropped his palette, trotted past Shirley on tired feet, heading for the front office. A tall man was standing there, standing straight, wearing a pair of slacks and light blue shirt, but looking like he wasn’t used to it. His chin was shaved blue and his head ended in a flat top that was nearly geometric. When he caught sight of Bob, his blue eyes lit up but there was a question in them.

“Rob, you old cuss, it’s good to see you!” said Bob, breaking the ice. He reached out to hug his long lost twin.

“Bob, you magnificent bastard, what in hell have you been doing with yourself, getting rich and famous on me?” The brothers hugged hard, pounding each other’s backs.

“Well, I guess I haven’t done too badly for myself at that,” said Bob. “Mostly I do what I like to do, and help other folks do that too.”

“And make a happy buck off the special paints and brushes and stuff with your name plastered all over them,” said Rob with a grin. “Not that I mind, I think it’s great. How many more years you going to do this painting thing?”

“For the rest of my life, I guess,” said Bob, “but I was just going to let them know that I wouldn’t be back for next season of the show.”

“Why not?” Rob looked a bit concerned now, and searched his brother’s face for an answer.

“Well, to tell you the truth, I’m getting to the point where I’m repeating myself more often than not, in paintings and not just words. And I’m getting tired, Rob. I think maybe I’ve earned myself a few years of peace. I’ve got a plan to run a little wildlife sanctuary, where I can help hurt or sick critters, and maybe paint things just for myself. I just signed on a nice piece of property and I’m all set to move in a couple months.”

“I’ve got an idea,” said Rob, mischief dancing in his eyes. “I’ll come over to your place. You take a month or two, teach me how to paint your way. I’ll grow myself a beard, and I’ll take over your show and see if anybody notices the difference. I’ll bet you no one does.”

“You? Lookin’ scruffy like me and changing up your painting style? That’ll be the day.” Bob never could resist a good bet, especially when it was combined with a fabulous joke. “Sure, why not? You can have half my old jeans. I still want the other half, I’ll be needin’ ’em. And I’ll teach you to feed squirrels, and introduce you to the Bird Lady here in Muncie. I know she’ll want to be in on this. It’ll be a hoot.”

Rob clapped his brother on the shoulder. “All right, sounds like a plan then. You finish up in here and I’ll meet you outside. Wouldn’t want to let the kitty out of the burlap quite yet.”

Two months later, the 31st season of the Joy of Painting aired. Bob was snug in his log cabin up near Anchorage, sitting in his easy chair with a glass of iced tea. The old TV set flickered as it brought him the latest episode of the Joy of Painting. Rob wasn’t doing too badly, considering. The wig looked good and his beard had grown in well, so he really looked the part. His touch with a palette knife was delicate enough for the wet on wet technique, his manner was gentle and his patter was nearly perfect. Except for one flaw.

“All right, now we’re going to put in some rocks in this stream, and some waves, and all these little dooters…”

 

Who’s walking on my bed?

Halloween is different for everyone – some people use it as a religious day, others an excuse to eat massive amounts of candy, some love to make costumes, some go to parties, some watch the goriest movies they can find, and some use it as a time to say hello to the dear departed one more time.

October 31st has been all of those things to me, except maybe for the day to watch movies, and lately it’s been more a time to say hello to those whom I’ve loved and lost.  You should see what they do during the Japanese festival of the dead, they party for three days.  Obon is a really fun time.

For me, though, the end of October is a time when the veil between the different realities seems a little thinner, there’s a snap to the air even out here in Arizona, and life seems just a bit more sad and a bit more beautiful, like it could end at any moment and I’m reminded to tell everyone just how much I love them.

This Halloween tale is true, every word of it.

It’s simple enough:

Last night around midnight, a cat walked on my bed.  His steps were light and fast and both I and my spouse felt him.

Here’s the thing though.  There are two living cats in my house.  One of them was in my study, the other out in the living room, snoozing away on a pillow.  That left the third – who was a sweet black furred gentleman named Orion, who had golden eyes, a rumbling purr, and gave great hugs.  He would jump into my arms when I asked him and always seemed to understand me.  He taught my current calico, Nezumi, to put me to bed at night and get me up in the morning.

With both cats’ locations known, that left only one possibility – Orion, nine years gone, had come for another visit.  We feel him sometimes, usually walking across the bed, sometimes brushing against our ankles.  The site mascot, Nezumi, sometimes reacts to him too.  He’s actually the reason why I think sometimes people, whether they have two legs or four, come back to visit friends and loved ones.

Orion continues to teach me quite a bit, even though he’s no longer a physical person.  I think he might actually be happier now, since he doesn’t have a body to deal with and all its problems, and he can’t get hurt, and he can go wherever he wants.

I guess he’s the ultimate Halloween kitty – a black cat who IS a ghost!

 

 

(Photo looks like Orion but isn’t.)

Inktober Week Four

This week I did quite a few drawings, and more of them will be here in a day or two.  I also started oil painting and completed a couple of tiny test canvases.  One was four inches by six, the other four by eight.  I included a picture of the two of them together so you can get an idea of how small they are.  Soon I’ll be moving up to a much larger canvas (probably 18 by 24 or so) but these were a fun way to get my feet wet and find out what it was like to work with the materials.

So far I love it, by the way.  The way the paint smells and feels, the brushes, the long working time, it’s all great.  I’m happy to have the opportunity to do this at long last.  It was one very big item on my bucket list.  If anyone has interest, I’ll write an article about the best way to find halfway decent painting supplies without paying a huge amount of money.

I learned a lot about what not to do with a palette knife here!

 

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Here, to be random, is a picture of Nezumi sleeping with her paw over her eyes.  “Moms, turn the light off, wouldja?”

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InkTober Week 3

This week I did even more cards for coworkers – Boss’s Day plus a couple of birthdays.  So that cut into my InkTober arting just a bit.  However, I also finished a painting that had been sitting for oh, ten years or so, and did some digital stuff.  I’m still fascinated by clouds and never cease to be amazed by them.  Who cares about the latest entertainment news when I have Omigawd CLOUDS!  That one is a perfect orangy pink and I could totally do that with a liner brush and just a little blending… it looks like brushstrokes across the sky as it is…

On to the art.

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