Charcoal & Oil

I’ve inherited the most wonderful of possible objects: the finely made wood tool chest that was my mother-in-law’s. She used it quite frequently in life as her art supply cabinet. I was intentionally not home when it was brought to my house. I was fearful of my bouncing emotions ricocheting off of it and anyone else around at the time, so I stayed longer than usual out in the desert and further away than I normally go. When I came home, the men had gone and there it was, sitting larger than I remembered it, in the middle of the space between my parlor and my den. I didn’t move it for days. I didn’t open a single drawer. I couldn’t until I knew I’d have lots of alonetime and the day to myself, and was ready. Then, one day, I stood looking at it, took a deep breath and said “ok, let’s”.

The small drawers of the upper chest held her pencils, specialty tools for clay and sculpture, rulers, and oil paints along with small brushes. I inhaled the luscious aroma of linseed oil, wood, and graphite. It was a lovely time, and not at all upsetting. I felt like she was with me, or I with her. The tools and mediums felt alive with her energy. It was a gift to feel this; to feel her there just as if she were enjoying me enjoying this.

The large drawers of the bottom chest held more brushes – the big ones; stencils; pads of paper; and some of her clever drawings. I suppose my feelings became anguished amidst my love for her when I shuffled through the stack of prints she’d made of oceanic images from her travels that she wanted to paint or had painted. The unfinished and, I think, disappointing end to her old age in which I know she’d imagined herself painting endlessly and joyfully in. This hurt a bit. But who finishes life having¬†actually¬† finished? Few, I think. Is it even a good thing to be finished-finished? I don’t know.

Anyhow, after hours of mixing my paints with hers, admiring her huge assortment of brushes, and arranging the drawers in the way I thought best, I set out a couple of greens, blacks, and a white. I traced out the outline of a butterfly so I couldn’t possibly be intimidated by anything more complex, and painted in a simple green background onto the tiny canvas. The butterfly will be filled in soon. It was a wonderful, pleasure-filled experience.

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Last night I busted out some charcoal after trying out a clear gesso on natural-hued paper. The gesso is fabulous for charcoal! I love the woody color of the paper showing through. My sinuses hate charcoal, but it’s just the most wonderful medium for drawing. This is on my drafting table with is unattractively sitting in my parlor, but oh well. :0)

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This is the tool chest (actually two separate chests) before I set it up in my den/studio:

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