My mother’s clematis has climbed above deer-head-level and is blooming hysterically. It climbs up the side of the front entrance and spills over onto the roof, a cascade of purple and magenta – but only above the 7 foot level. At 6’11” and below, there are only a few leaves and a lot of snipped stems. Apparently deer enjoy purple salads.
Mom watched as I began the painting, frowning slightly. In past years, she would have been busy with potato salad or pie or laundry or pruning, but at 80+ she’s finally slowing down, so she’s at my elbow. We talked about the fact that some blossoms have four petals, some five, some six – rare in the plant world, and you don’t notice it until you begin sketching. She asked why don’t I just say drawing instead of sketching. I don’t really know – I guess “sketcher” sounds better than “drawer”, which is hard to pronounce. She asked about how did I meet those people in Brooklyn and London, how did I manage to find these total strangers in strange towns. Magic I tell her. The magic of art and the Internet. The frown deepens, the disapproving side of her mouth curves down with it.
She totters off for a while, then returns. “That’s nice!” She sounds more than a little surprised.
“It’s hard to know when to stop,” I tell her, laughing. I take a digital photo, add a bit more paint, take another photo, explain that it helps me decide if I’m “done”. I show her my china marker and how you have to “preserve” the white of the paper if you work in water color. I pick up my colored pencils and add another layer of color, dig out my Pitt Artist Pen and show her about cross-hatching. As I add the “chop” symbol in the corner I share what little I know about Asian traditions in recording who creates and owns art.
“That’s really nice.” She nods her head approvingly. I do one more photograph, then open Photoshop and show her a few of my favorite effects. I open the Internet browser and show her the sketching sites that I go to often, how one thing leads to another. She shakes her head and sighs.
She doesn’t really understand my passion for art. But she likes pretty things. She totters off to the garage and brings me back the garden clippers. “You can cut off that branch of the wild cherry and sketch it if you want.” It’s nap time for her. I think I’ll go clip that branch and get started.