Still, he was right in thinking that we make something new and complete from the tabula rasa of a blank flat canvas. Because this is work as well as pleasure, I periodically seek brief respites in which Christmas gifts figure prominently. I have been buried in reading over the break, the favourite being Becoming by Michelle Obama. The world was very lucky to have those two exceptional people in the White House for eight years. The Canadian art book from my brother also saw much page-turning and a certain amount of couch tussling with Jon (who also likes to keep two or three on the go at any time). But I like to think that in the back of my mind I was also incubating a painting or two. T.S.Eliot certainly thought that art - whether poetry or painting - needed a period of dormancy or gestation. At least I hope to hell that something’s back there. I made the mistake of totalling up the number of shows for which I need “something” (ranging from one to a whole lot of paintings) in 2019. When the number surpassed a dozen shows I mercifully lost consciousness.
If there is an impetus to facing the music and getting down to it, Kahil Gibran’s definition is right on: “Work is love made visible.” The glaze oil process is certainly Work with a capital. “Stephen’s Oslo” remains a cautionary tale when I am tempted to combine something that big with that much detail: by Day Ten, I wasn’t even getting dressed in the morning. Jon, upon returning home from work and finding me painting on a step ladder while still dressed in my jammies, made the mistake of asking if I knew what time it was. I made the mistake of admitting that I had no idea. The writer Peg Bracken, who was an avid reader, always had chopped onions and a knob of butter in the pan so that when she heard the car in the driveway, she could drop her book and flip the burner on; if her timing was right, her husband would enter with an appreciative “Something smells good!” She probably left her apron on all day. I guess I could keep a caftan in the studio.
I dare say that a complex twelve-square-foot canvas needing a minimum of twelve layers is somewhat more gruelling than reading in the living room. Every so often, Jon asks if I might like to paint another marine scene and I shudder, but while I might not be keen on doing it again, I do remember that its creation was an act of love — of the complex beauty of sky and water, of the calligraphy of masts and lines, of the sunset glow swathing all. In fact, everything I paint is an homage to my love of it.
So my New Year’s Resolution is to keep walking towards love, while remembering that work is an inseparable component. May your 2019 be full of joy and fulfilment. Just remember to prep the onions and keep that caftan handy.