Tag Archives: painting

2473. Endangered Zanzibar Red Colobus

Westby was named after his grandfather, and because he was embarrassed about his name as a kid he withdrew into himself and became a bit of a loner. He had one quality however that was admired far and wide: he could draw the most fabulously realistic pictures. It was better than a camera; you would swear his pictures had come alive.

To help boost visitor numbers at the city zoo they commissioned Westby to paint jungle scenes on all walls of an enclosure. This enclosure was for the most popular creatures in the zoo: a pair of Zanzibar Red Colobus. These monkeys were colourful and quaint and endangered. With Westby’s realistic jungle scenes the Zanzibar Red Colobus were destined to become the most popular attraction at the zoo – if not the most popular attraction in the whole town.

Westby painted lions and tigers and elephants and giraffes and warthogs and hyenas and vultures and everything else African, including the shrubbery. In fact the animal paintings were so realistic that people began suggesting it would be a waste of time seeing the rest of the animals in the zoo. A quick visit to the Zanzibar Red Colobus and you’d seen the lot.

In one corner of the enclosure Westby had painted a pair of Zanzibar Red Colobus. They were the most realistic of all. They were phenomenal. The day arrived for returning the Zanzibar Red Colobus to their newly-painted enclosure.

At first they were a little stunned, and then they saw the painted pair of Zanzibar Red Colobus. They raced to them. They kissed them! They licked them! They tried to hug them! You could tell they recognized their own kind.

The next day they died of lead poisoning.

2458.  Bonnie’s paintings

Bonnie was an aspiring artist. She painted. She had little to no talent, but at an artists’ convention she won a chance to have an exhibition at the local gallery.

Bonnie was over the moon. It motivated her to paint even more incomprehensible works of art. By now, the town was plastered with posters advertising the event.

Bonnie had gone along to the gallery – not to supervise – but to excitedly witness the curator and staff hang the exhibits. What a thrill! It was while sitting down to rest her weary feet that Bonnie overheard the curator chatting in the next room.

“Bonnie’s paintings are rarely awful.”

Bonnie was tickled pink! The curator’s standards were astronomically high. Rarely awful! Rarely awful! She glowed as she repeated the phrase out aloud with delight all the way home.

Bonnie’s paintings are rarely awful. Rarely awful! Rarely awful!

At the opening of the exhibition on the Thursday evening the curator was even more effusive. He heartily shook Bonnie’s hand and practically burst with enthusiasm. He said, “Good is not the word.”

2232. Aunt Josephine’s painting

I’d always liked the painting Aunt Josephine had on her dining room wall. I don’t know why I liked it, but I did. It was simply a portrait of an unnamed woman. It was painted in oils, waist up. Her eyes stared out directly into the room. I was delighted when I was left the painting in Aunt Josephine’s will.

I too hung it on my dining room wall. It was on a side wall behind where the head of the table would sit – not that we followed such a custom. We sat where we liked. On one of the longer walls was the fire place, and on the wall opposite the fireplace was an expansive window. The lady of the painting overlooked the table; the fireplace to her right; the window to her left. It was as if the portrait had been painted especially for the room.

Not long after I had hung the painting, my sister visited. She knew I had been given the painting. Where is it?

“It’s in the dining room,” I said. “She overlooks the table.”

We went there, and the lady’s eyes were no longer looking straight ahead. She was looking out the window. It was creepy.

I soon took the painting down. I didn’t like to store it in the attic for who knows if it would go bump in the night. It was possessed.  I burnt it in the fire. Bit by bit. I remember especially burning the piece with the eyes.

That evening, when we sat down to eat, the picture was back up. Entire. Complete. The eyes were staring steadfast and cold at the fireplace. And her lips had a smile that wasn’t there before.

2003. The fortunes of Mavis

It was no fault of Mavis that she was born with two noses. She had four nostrils. It didn’t seem to add to her sense of smell; in fact compared to some her smell appeared sometimes below par.

Some people were appalled at the sight of her, but it’s amazing what you can get used to with familiarity. It’s only ignorance that prevents people from looking beyond appearances. Yes, I suppose Mavis having two noses and four nostrils did make her ugly to look at and difficult to relate to, but underneath she had a sparkling personality and that’s what matters.

Not even having four ears could distract from her noses. She “cheated” a bit with her ears because she let her hair grow down over them and most people didn’t notice. It was only at secondary school when her calculating calculus teacher got scissors and cut Mavis’s hair off to illustrate a point about the number 4 that people began to realize that she had extra ears. “Spare ears” the calculus teacher called them. Again, having an extra two ears didn’t seem to add to her aural perceptions. In fact, to hear her sing was a clear sign that she was tone deaf.

To be fair, her tone deafness might not have been brought about by having four ears. It might have been caused by the fact that she had two tongues. She wasn’t (dear me, no) born with two tongues. She was late in starting to learn to talk so her father split her tongue in the manner (now banned) of splitting a magpie’s tongue to facilitate human speech in the magpie. It made little difference to Mavis. She was still a late developer when it came to speech and always spoke with a lisp.

It wasn’t so much her lisp that was annoying; it was her stutter. She had the most terrible stutter, and with a split tongue we had the odious obligation to sit patiently while she said everything twice.

It’s not impossible that by now you’ve heard enough about Mavis to get a picture of her. She had lots of other things of interest with her body as well, like a fifth arm that poked out of her neck. All that need be said is that Mavis’s luck changed around her twentieth birthday. A fairly insignificant artist – Pablo someone – asked her to pose for a painting. She did so, and has never looked back.

Poem 97: Self-portrait on a blank canvas

(Today’s story will make an appearance at midday (New Zealand time). But first I wanted to post a poem. This is the third (and possibly final) self-portrait poem. The first was “Self-portrait in landscape“. The second was “Self-portrait in still life“. And here’s the third – “Self-portrait on a blank canvas”. Thanks for taking the time to read/listen!)

The blank canvas calls for colour;
a pale blue perhaps for endless sky,
a fresh-filled swimming pool,
Our Lady of Lourdes,
a blue cat.

Perhaps a vibrant green
for vernal growth,
jade parakeets,
new chestnut leaves,
bile spewed or envy all-consuming.
Not everything on a palate’s palatable.

Blotches of red;
too much splattered that
the portrait’s doomed and ruined.
Scarlet garnets show for miles.
There’s no grace in brazen crimson,
no joy in bloodshot blood.
I wish that red would fade.

Other tints ungrace and grace the picture:
a cowardly yellow,
fractured gold,
orange sunlight shattered, a purple patch,
brown (common brown), a slice of black, a splash of grey,
bits of missed transparent canvas.

Sometimes a person comes along
and scrawls unprompted in a space.
Most (but first let me stir another sweetened brew)…
most enter; and exit after scribbling… nothing much.
They mutter in their passing, “What a… what a mess.”

I’m sorry, but it’s all there is and it’s all I’ve got.

To hear the poem being read click HERE!

1925. Three minutes of fame

A true story to celebrate what in New Zealand is officially the first day of Spring (although I personally don’t drink to it until the equinox on the 23rd). The story has nothing to do with Spring as such. It’s to do with the only painting I’ve ever done.

My family were never much into art. As kids we had colouring-in books, but we never painted pictures. Perhaps Mother thought that pencils were less messy than paint. I did have a collection of coloured pencils however. You would get a different shade in the mail every week, and I think I had several hundred pencils all wonderfully cataloged. I don’t recall drawing; just colouring-in.

These days I’m not averse to the occasional surreptitious colouring-in – although I have only eight colours!

Even when I was sent to boarding school (age 13) the options were between Woodwork and Art. My parents chose Woodwork – and quite frankly I was not very good at it.

Years later, when I was in the Seminary studying for the priesthood, quite a few of the students were exceptional artists. I thought I’d try my hand at water colours. I still remember painting this picture. I talked to the lady as she emerged from the canvas. I called it Lady at the market selling potatoes. Apparently I abused water colouring technique, and instead of “laying” colours I rubbed them all together in a mess. Proudly I found an old frame and hung the painting in the book-binding room where I worked – just above the guillotine!

The Seminary was a long established institution in the province. It had the largest private library and the oldest vineyard in the country. Crowds of visitors would come to the cellars to purchase wine, and there on a hill behind the cellars was a large grand building where no visitors came because it was “The Mission Seminary”. It had a mystique. It was a place seen only from a distance, with its palm trees overlooking the city. Once a year the Seminary would have “an open day”. Crowds of people would come for a peek.

“And this,” I said to a visiting lady, “is where we bind and mend the books for the library.” The lady was clearly a snob. She had a plum in her mouth; or was that a silver spoon? Grandly she stood in front of the guillotine gazing at my painting.

“I’ve seen the original of that,” she said. “In The Netherlands.”

Poem 96: Self-portrait in still life

(Today there is no story, but Poem 96. This is the second “Self-portrait” poem – the first one was “Landscape” and this one is “Still Life”. This poem is probably not to everyone’s liking. I try to cover as much territory as I can and sometimes feel a bit strangled by the expectations of the occasional some. So if I don’t follow myself I end up in some quagmire of  uncreativity and consumed by self-doubt. Sorry if this didn’t make sense. For those who prefer to be warned, there is a swear word in the poem).

Today I pulled out weeds in the garden.
I don’t have a clue what the weeds are called.
I s’pose they have names.
I have a weed book (with illustrations) called
“Weeds”. All the names inside

are Latin, like Taraxacum officinal
which is just an antediluvian nomenclature for dandelion.
A friend of mine once made tea out of Taraxacum officinal and got the runs.
Yes, I have friends.

(Fa la la la la).

One of the weeds was all tanglely and sticky.
Another had roots so deep it snapped underground.
Yet another was prickly
and another slimy because of spit beetle spit.
Anyway, I couldn’t help but think –

I am a fern frond stuck in a vase in a still life painting
– not that a fern is a weed –
stuck in a vase with a couple of dowdy dead flowers,
and next to a banana.

(Fa la la la la).

I am a fern frond stuck in a vase.
I am a fern frond stuck in a vase next to a banana.
The frond reminds Mabel up the road of the most intricate lace.
But it’s the same all the way up.
It’s the same all the way down.

Everything’s the same.
It’s the same fa la la la la.

(Fa la la la fucking fa la).

Some days I feel the need to escape the picture.

To hear the poem being read click HERE!

1833. The story of a little painting

Wendy Wharton had three children and not a great amount in her bank account to feed them. She worked part-time in a beauty salon. To get a few extra pennies she painted brightly coloured pictures of Mediterranean houses that had window boxes of geraniums. She had a small stall at the market on Saturdays. Her little works of art, usually painted on slabs of wood, were quite popular. Each cost five dollars. At one stage she increased the price and sales slumped, so she went back to selling them for five dollars each.

Wendy’s great moment of glory came when the internationally renowned film star and model, the incomparable Magdalene Cullum, was about to pass by Wendy’s stall. Magdalene paused. She stopped. She purchased the five dollar work of art! It was a small painting of a house near the sea with a little sailing boat skimming in the sunshine. Wendy was rather fond of it herself. “Thank you. I hope it enjoys its new home,” said Wendy.

Several years later the same little painting appeared for sale online. It sold for over five thousand. Of course its value rested on the fact that it had been pre-loved by the internationally renowned film star and model, the incomparable Magdalene Cullum. Who wouldn’t want something, no matter how insignificant, once owned by Magdalene? Everything Magdalene touched turned to gold.

You can get a similar painting for five dollars down at the market on Saturdays. But it hasn’t been touched by a film star.

1814. So talented!

Charlotte didn’t have a single humdrum electron whizzing around in her brain. Her brain was on fire!

“You’re so creative, Charlotte,” people would say. “How do you come up with so many creative ideas?”

“I guess it’s a natural gift one is born with,” said Charlotte, and she would return to the painting she was painting, or the music for the Irish harp she was playing, or the sundial she was installing in the garden.

“Everything you touch turns to gold, Charlotte,” people would say. “You definitely have the Midas touch.”

“I don’t do anything to encourage it,” said Charlotte. “Things just come naturally to me,” and she went back to baking her Baked Alaska for she was have important friends over for dinner, or back to the rug she was weaving, or back to the dress for a niece’s doll she was sewing, or back to making homemade candles for a friend’s 30th birthday, or back to the lines she was learning for a dramatic production.

The extolling of Charlotte’s talents among her peers was like a mantra; it repeated itself over and over. “It’s sad you can’t find a job in this small town,” someone said. “Why don’t you move to the big city where your talents would be put to good use?”

So Charlotte moved to the big city in search of a job. What a relief! Quite frankly, Charlotte had driven everyone in the small town nuts.

1495. The colour pink

… and they used to do everything together. When they were first married Thelma and Rohan would decide everything together. What is the best variety of lettuce to plant in the garden? What shall we do for our anniversary? What painting should we hang above the fireplace? What special things shall we do this coming summer?

These days it was altogether different. After forty years each presumed they knew the other’s mind. The presumption was that years’ of teamwork meant the other rarely need be asked.

So when Thelma went to stay for a week or so with her elderly failing sister, Rohan decided to surprise Thelma by repainting the dining room. And indeed, Thelma was surprised! She didn’t say a word other than cluck with delight, but what a disgusting colour! Bright pink! She would have to live with it for the next ten years or so.

When Rohan’s saw bench reached the end of its earthly usefulness, Thelma bought him a new one for Christmas. Of course he acted delighted. In fact he acted quite tickled pink, but it was the wrong type of saw bench. Rohan had to secretly buy another one and pretend he was using the one from Thelma.

These were little things of course, but they built up, built up. One day, Thelma blurted out that she hated the colour of the dining room. They argued and Rohan revealed that she had given him the wrong saw bench.

These days, they’re back to discussing things and making mutual decisions. Life is a lot easier.