Tag Archives: painting

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.

If the above link doesn’t play, then try clicking 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.

If the above link doesn’t play, then try clicking 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.

1286. Nice portraits of mice

When Mitchell stood up straight from weeding the garden, he accidentally hit his head on a plank that the house painters had placed between two ladders. It was quite a severe knock and Mitchell had concussion. He spent three days in hospital before returning home.

What amazed people, including specialists, was that the accident seemed to have activated a section of his brain hitherto dormant. Suddenly Mitchell discovered he could paint pictures of cute field mice; field mice in a corn field; field mice eating cheese; field mice taunting cats. He even painted a delightfully intricate picture of a mouse flying a de Havilland Tiger Moth aircraft! These paintings sold for hefty prices; so hefty in fact that Mitchell and his wife were able to purchase a house free from debt.

“They’re not simply pictures of mice,” said the curator of the city museum, “it’s the thought processes behind it. Mitchell is able to convey feelings of beauty, insignificance, aloneness, grandeur. Even the sky above the mice conveys varying deep emotions. With one knock on the head he is able to portray scenes of incomparable exquisiteness.”

Unfortunately, Mitchell drove his wife to drink. He was totally nuts.

1197. The artist’s model

Stella had the most beautiful hair. Her hair was the envy of everyone. All who saw it couldn’t help but gush with wonder and admiration. It was almost as if Stella was a mutation. Her hair was probably why the artist had asked Stella if she would mind posing for a painting.

“Just look up to the ceiling for a minute if you would,” asked the painter.

“Turn your head slightly to the right,” asked the painter.

“Gently frisk your hair to the left. Just a little! Perfect!” said the artist.

“All done,” said the artist. Pablo Picasso put down his brushes.

Stella had the most beautiful hair. It was just a shame she had only one eye and in the middle of her forehead, three ears, and a nose that pointed in two directions at once.

314. Grotty old painting

314grotty

Claire’s great-grandfather died. He had collected works of art throughout his life. On his death, Claire claimed that all she got was a grotty old painting of an ugly woman.

“You should get it valued,” someone said.

“Great balls of fire!” exclaimed the art dealer. “Holy moly! Hell’s bells and buggy wheels! This is a genuine Rembrandt!”

“Great balls of fire!” exclaimed Claire.

She never told a soul about the twenty-five others she’d used for kindling in her log burner.