Friday, February 27, 2009

Colored Pencils

I have previously blogged about my obsession with color and design -- the M&Ms I arranged and rearranged on the kitchen pastry block, the marbles and tiles I arranged and rearranged on the den floor, the fantastic blue of winter sky and accidental patches of white in Abbo's Alley, the rainbow array of my Prismacolor pencils.

My obsession began in childhood.

My father manufactured paint. (My brother and nephew still do.) I loved going to the factory, where I could watch Joe L. mix pigments and chemicals in a large squarish vat. He could match and mix color by eye alone. I loved the sound of the pug mill, cascading pebbles round and round, their clatter resonating against metal roof and concrete floor. I loved the paint-splattered floors long before I'd heard of action-painting or Jackson Pollock. I loved the color chips and color wheel in the retail stores. I loved the myriad cans of paint in the basement with their drips and lid patches.

My mother was a seamstress who painted with fabric and thread. I loved going to the fabric store with her and wandering among the bolts while she studied the Butterick and McCall's pattern books. I loved looking at her delicate and complicated designs on altar hangings and vestments, shimmering with real and silver thread. I loved the felt pictures she made for Christmas, her fruit and vegetable pillows, and the clothes she created for me, even the annual Easter dresses. I loved the glint of her gold thimble, which her grandmother had given her as a wedding gift.

One brother was an artist, whose tubes of oil paint seduced me with their colors and their slick sheen on the palette. My nose saw their brilliance and subtlety. I loved the canvases, prepared and unprepared, on which he sketched and dabbed. My other brother was an engineer and mechanic, and I loved the precision of his mechanical work, the depth and richness of the wood he fashioned into a small hydroplane and the rainbows of oil patches under his cars and motorcycles.

Now I celebrate the artistry of the everyday: the deer that galloped past my deck this morning, his coat a steely tan with hairless patches; the complementary oranges and blues and creams of the PowerPoint I showed my online students last night; the warm tan of my milk-and-tea in the blue and fawn and brown hand-thrown cup next to my left hand; the brilliance of Mother's diamond ring on my right as I write.

Hamlet said he could bounded in a nutshell and count [him]self a king of infinite space." I could too but the shell would have to offer riotous, joyful, unexpected, ever-changing color. Then I'd be a happy queen.

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