My mother was an artist: lively pen and ink portraits, wry and whimsical cartoons and sculpture in clay and wood. She held exhibitions and sold her pieces. Her wake featured some of her best works. My grandmother produced remarkable charcoal landscapes and haunting portraits too. My aunt, I believe, had talent with water colours.
The boxes of art supplies lurk in the garage. Inherited canvasses and oil painted spattered boards stored alongside everything I bought: pencils, and paints and ring-bound sketch books and hard cover ones. Their thick, rough, white pages hold me in their thrall. Mostly they are blank.
While I don’t miss the lack of air conditioning, I do long for the summers sitting in the tiny lounge of my Nan’s famed Hollyhock Cottage that artists still like to sit in front of. Inside away from the sun, I painted imaginary landscapes opposite the dead 19th century grate while Nan knitted as she watched the monotonous back and forth of the Australian Open tennis, punctuated only by the intermittent profanity offered by John McEnroe.
A break? Please enjoy this Italian video featuring the artless but dexterous ability of Mr McEnroe’s performance against my favourite tennis player Henri Leconte. Everyone else in school liked Stefan Edberg. I preferred this French guy.
Anyway. The action is not about tennis.
Slightly more recently, I miss those rowdy nights on campus, painting psychedelic abstract pages one after the other, some for me, some for friends. I thought it’d keep thinking at bay. It didn’t work. It was an unforced error to imagine art works like that – at least for everyone.
Some-when between then and now even that much drifted away on the ebb and flow of every day decisions and unexplored dreams. Art didn’t follow through. The water colours dried, cracked and crumbled in their brittle plastic pallets. I know fault lies entirely in my court.
Today, as my new charcoal pencils break into powdery bits as I sharpen them, I wonder did art leave me or did I leave art?
Was it a passing shot? Can it be a let?
The deciding point? Perhaps I can reset the baseline or break back, or find the centre mark, or sweet spot or reach for another tennis analogy to complete whatever I’m trying to say.
Perhaps there’s time to unlearn what Terry Pratchett derided as the “limits of the possible.”
I’ve not yet mastered my genes.