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Archive for May 8th, 2019

I have started working on some new pieces that are wet work which means I am working flat, on a table, instead of at an easel.¬† It’s something I don’t do as much as I used to, especially in the early years when my work was all done at a table. My work table is an old Hamilton drafting table with a 40″ by 60″ top that is a monster, built heavy with a steel spring mechanism that lifts and lowers the work surface.

This table been a good soldier over the years and has been the spot where almost all of my wet work on paper has been created. When I am spending more time at the easel it becomes a spot where I amass tubes and bottles of paint and ink, rolls of paper towel, piles of paintbrushes and bits and pieces of paper with crude drawings and scribbles notes about ideas that might someday appear somewhere. Or might not.

I was clearing a space to begin working and I really took a look at the surface of the table. It is covered with a thick vinyl mat, a once pale green sheet  that is now thickly coated with layers of paint and ink from years of use. I used to try to clean the surface periodically, scrubbing at it until much of the pigments lifted. But it has been a very long time since that last happened and it now has a deep dark hue, a mix of all the colors of my palette.

I find it very satisfying in looking at the surface. It is a visual reminder of time spent and efforts made, bringing to mind the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi which emphasizes the finding of beauty in the wear and imperfections of things.

In the photo at the top, I pulled out one of my old ink bottles and placed it on the surface alongside a new bottle of the same color ink. The old bottle should have been discarded years ago but I hold onto it out of some form of nostalgia. It is coated with layers of ink that have become almost black from me handling it with hands stained with many hues for a very long time. Chances are that if you saw any of my work from 2004-2012, this bottle had something to do with it.

Like the surface of the table,which you can see in the photo, the evident wear shown on the bottle speaks to me. It should be trash but it has meaning for me now, it speaks of thousand so of hours standing over that table, deeply engrossed in the work I was doing. Work that has long left me and now reveals what truths they might hold to others now.

Seeing the two bottles reminds me of seeing a war veteran who has been through every battle standing side by side on the battlefield with a raw recruit who has yet to be tested. That worn bottle was a good soldier, one whose small efforts made the larger effort possible. Hopefully, that new recruit will serve as admirably as the old vet.

I am betting it will.

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