Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian. The Smithsonian selected her photo to represent all teens from a specific decade.
White Woven Fabric
The canvas is pulled and I staple it onto a wooden frame. Seeing the white blank space, I envision filling it with color and creation; seeing a white piece of paper waiting for my words causes a similar excitement. I lift my oak box by its leather handle, unclasp the brass hinges, and the fragrance of linseed oil against the bitter scent of turpentine emerge. Removing a smooth wooden board that fits exactly into a slot inside, I clamp on two round yet tiny tin cups. I line up the sable brushes with their very long handles, adjust the wobble in my light-to-carry easel, and stand before my supplies. I grin and fill one cup with linseed oil as thoughts go back to the very first oil painting I did:
As a pre-teen, in my parents’ living room, amid silk damask upholstered furniture, a Baby Grand piano, and a French Provincial design false fireplace, I unwrapped the 'magic box.' Metal tubes had odd names: cadmium yellow, burnt sienna, cobalt blue. A vase on a round table that I’d seen over and over now was ‘seen’ differently, and I opened the new three-legged easel, put the already-prepared canvas board on the narrow ledge, and knew I’d capture the colors of the object. My parents didn’t object to my working in that room showing me that things are not important, people are. My mother knit, and the 78rpm records had music playing; my dad had to change each once the needle got to the end of the shellac grooves. I put small drops of paint from tubes, squeezing as if each held toothpaste, and used a metal palette knife to mix them into what seemed like a mess. I knew my mess was the color blend I wanted.
At that time, camera film was black and white, but my ‘camera eyes’ printed the vase in full color, with a slight interpretation of the way I felt viewing both the object and my painted strokes. My parents praised. If they minded the smell of oil, linseed liquid, brush cleaner, they didn’t say. The painting, once dry, was taken to be framed and hung. As they'd always done, my parents made me feel important, encouraged all my creative yearnings, and provided the tools to develop them.
In undergrad school, once I switched from Arts and Science to the School of Education, my Sociology/Anthropology minor had to be changed; high school teachers would not have that as a subject. Also, my Speech and Drama major could no longer be pursued for the same reason. I switched to an English major and an Art minor. A Mid-western university had a summer program, for credit, and a life oil painting class was offered; my dad allowed money to be used to sign up for Advanced Shakespeare, Advanced Literature, and Oil Painting; I had to get special permission to take 3 courses during the summer as only 2 were considered 'correct.' I so wanted all three, although the main reason I was going was for the art course, different from what I was taking in the New England university I attended. The ‘magic box’ had very few original tubes left with crimped metal where I squeezed; but colors were replaced once gone. Now the wood inside had traces of hues, and the palette was stained by years of paint.
I’d turn 20 when my junior year ended and the plan was to have those summer courses, and get my BA as soon as I turned 21. Unexpectedly, breathing ceased for my 45-year-old father just weeks after my twentieth birthday. My mother insisted I have the summer school experience already scheduled, and I carried my grief and boarded the first train to Chicago. I had a private sleeping room arranged, in advance, by my father.
I raged with King Lear, understood politics with Coriolanus, felt Whitman beside me looking out on the river...but felt both excited and sad when a room with sturdy easels and the fragrance of paint was entered. I wore the dirndl skirts my dad so liked, and my favorite had ribbons of yellow horizontally and ribbons of black vertically. My brush, holding vermillion, connected with that skirt as I bent forward; tears filled my eyes and spilled over. Turpentine would not do more than spread the intense color on the fabric and ribbons. The model moved, left her platform, and took a necessary break.
I used that time to find a pay phone and make a collect call as I needed to hear my mother’s voice. “I ruined my skirt, and daddy can never buy me another,” was what I blurted out without thinking of her loss or her grief.
She was always available to comfort and this hadn’t changed. “It’s a skirt, dear. Enjoy your class; create something from only a blank area; wear that skirt knowing you didn’t save it but used it and the paint stain will be a reminder that things are not important, only people are. I love you. Go back to class.”
I still find solace in creating from a blank area and see the abundant, meaningful possibilities in making use of white woven fabric. Recently, one of my granddaughters was eager to show me a photo on her phone. She’d used, for the first time, an oily kind of paint on a rectangle of canvas stretched on wooden frames; what I know about that vs. acrylic and, did I like what she’d done? Acrylic didn’t exist during my education years, but I tried that medium about 5 years ago wanting something that didn’t require more than water to clean up, and water to dip brushes into as well. I began to give her information about linseed oil and the distinct scent of turpentine, but found myself giving her the story about a white dirndl skirt with ribbons, and the philosophy of tangible items being temporary, but love and encouragement lasting a lifetime.
© 2016 The Write Place at the Write Time