Saturday 9 April 2016

On Becoming Picasso



“And a can of hair spray,” I tell the girl with the earphones dangling from her earlobes. 
“It’s for my art class," I add.
 The queue in the shop is building up behind me, but I explain anyway. “To keep the pastels from running into one another.”

 The minute I get home I soak my morning’s effort in a blast of hair spray and stick it on the fridge door. I have already spent a fortune on my Thursday art class and the feedback so far has been a series of warm condolences.
“It’s not bad,” my youngest son reassures me.
“You have to start somewhere,” declares my eldest as she turns my masterpiece upside down in an attempt to decipher it.
 “It is a beginner’s class, love,” says my husband. “You can’t expect to be a Picasso just yet!”
But that’s just the problem. 
It isn’t a beginner’s class. 
The beginner’s class was full.
“Of course, as I’ve said before, there’s no such thing as white,” announces Vivienne Lensky on our first morning. “White does not exist. If you look with a painterly eye you’ll see that white is actually informed by some other colour, like blue or yellow.”
The other six painterly ladies nod knowingly. 
This isn’t their first outing in art class.
They’ve been juggling it with golf, bridge and church coffee mornings for well near a decade. Janet has already progressed to watercolours and spends most of the morning blow drying her elaborately detailed landscape. Josephine has taken up her vibrantly colourful market scene again, after abandoning it over the summer months. Perfectly curved and textured melons and peppers stare up at me from her market stall backdrop.
They are all discussing framing, art exhibitions, reasonable price tags to place on their term’s work etc etc while I am set to the task of choosing my favourite pictures from a pile of gallery brochures. “Just to determine your style,” says Vivienne.

“Pastels,” she announces after a cursory glance at my choice and I am assigned a box of chalks. 

Tears are beginning to smart. I had expected a palette and an array of exotic sounding colours to choose from. I had bought a bag of silver tubes and a selection of brush sizes from 2 to 16. They peep out now from my large canvas bag, also purchased for its width, depth and capacity to hold the thinners, the turpentine, the vast stock of supplementary objects that a real painter would require. 

But chalk? I have always hated the smell of it.

Within ten minutes I have smudges of chalk everywhere. The desk, my pale blue shirt, my nose. Vivienne offers a rubber which I use generously to rearrange my sleeping cat figure. But it is all a frantic explosion of dust and smudge. Red has ended up where it was not intended and my tortoiseshell is more ginger than tortoise. 

Meanwhile the other painterly ladies dabble elegantly and stroll from pale canvas to pale canvas admiring the view and talking of texture and perspective until the tears threaten to wash away my morning’s effort.

“I like his pose,” announces Janet looking over my shoulder.
“It’s a cat is it?” says Josephine.
“What else,” I mutter through gritted teeth.
“I think he’s splendid,” declares Vivienne and I want him for the Christmas card set.”
“The what?” I ask.
“The Christmas card designs. Every year we do a set of twelve for the Swahili Tiger Widows. Do you think you could try a snowman next week?”

 I have at last found my level. Three reindeers, four robins, two Santas, three snowmen and one tortoiseshell later and the Thursday morning Redford Painters have put together a set of Charity cards. The Tiger Widows declare a bumper year for revenue from Christmas card sales and I can’t wait until Spring. It seems I am about to embark on another mission that will require a detailed study of tulips, spring chickens, lambs and Easter bunnies. 

And everybody else is too busy creating masterpieces.

Copyright with Cathy Leonard 2016

1 comment:

  1. Aaah. I know exactly how you felt. But I bet none of these ladies-who-lunch can write like you do!