Colours [in search of an artist]

August 16, 2010

Yesterday, at my parents’ house, I stumbled upon this old box of wax crayons:

It had been given to me some fifteen, maybe even twenty years ago by H., a long since deceased friend of the family who for many years was kind of like a grandfather to me. Before that, the crayons used to belong to H.’s own daughter way back when she was a little schoolgirl in the 1960s.

Apparently, though, she didn’t use them very much, and to this day they’re pretty much intact.

Another thing I received from H. is a set of loose watercolour pans that look just as aged and tattered, yet also just as pristine as the crayons:

I now keep them next to a heap of equally vintage Tempera colour tubes:

My grandma found these in her house a few years ago, though oddly enough no-one in my family seems to know where they originally came from or who they might have belonged to. Be that as it may, once they had mysteriously appeared out of nowhere my grandma decided that I should have them, seeing as I was into painting and might have had a use for them.

Believe it or not, I could even provide an appropriate painting support for those decades-old colours: A set of wooden painting panels, most of them already primed with an undercoat, that spent almost half a century gathering dust in the hallowed halls of the Austrian Association of Women Artists. As already mentioned by [m], we’re friends with the Association’s president who, a couple of years ago, kindly relinquished these panels to me.

So I now own a veritable collection of old painting materials but, as much as I treasure them, somehow I also feel bad about them. The reason for this is that all of these things were given to me under the assumption that I wouldn’t just store and keep them but that I would actually use them. But how could I? They have all been so perfectly preserved for years and years on end, and now they seem to be enwrapped in some fragile sort of time capsule that I wouldn’t dare to touch. They have rested unaltered and unchanged for so long that I’d consider it a sacrilege to change them now. They have, over the years, attained so much character and battered beauty that they have become pieces of art themselves.

And yet, in all this beauty there is also a deep sense of sadness. Only the tips of the crayons are worked off, the tubes of Tempera are still well filled, the watercolour pans still sealed in their original wrapping. No painter’s brush has touched the primed and gessoed panels, time and dust and dirt have turned their whiteness to a shoddy grey. So, in a way, all of these objects seem to speak of missed opportunities, of things left undone, of unfulfilled intentions, and I feel like I owe it to their previous owners to finally put them to use. Which probably I never will. But then, maybe I’m already doing just that – by writing about them…

One Response to “Colours [in search of an artist]”

  1. Perhaps a collage of the media, not unlike the photographs above, against one of the panels? I understand your reticence to use the supplies. I have quite a few spools of beautiful silk thread that I inherited from a dear friend, mostly unused. Although I know she was not the type to be sentimental about something so mundane as thread, I can’t bring myself to use them. So I display them in a glass jar for inspiration and remembrance.

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