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The Old Home Place
From painting pictures OF windows, for the past year or so I have painted in the new fashion of painting BEHIND windows. I didn’t want to do it. My lovely client, Tresa Wheeler, was in her quiet way, insistent. She knew I could do it, she loved my work, and no, she didn’t prefer a watercolor of her house on paper, but her house painted on the backside of these wonderful, framed glass windows from a friend’s house. She wanted to look out on it as if she were looking out a window and seeing her old home place. (link #1, window painting with Tresa) And she wanted my work. I couldn’t even give her to another client.
She brought me all kinds of material–photos of how it used to look, write-ups in journals, before, after, in-between, in different seasons of the year; before and after the swing was added.
This is a funny journey. My doctor’s gal Friday had asked me about painting on glass a year or two before my assignment came. I didn’t know what to tell her. I knew acrylic stuck to anything. Oil did, but it was slippery. I’d done an assignment before, painting on a china pitcher and had bought those paints for it, paints in awful colors that you really couldn’t mix, that cost an arm and a leg. I probably commiserated with her over several months. She laughed her head off when she found out I was doing not one, but two of these paintings. None of the above worked. I knew that acrylic would come off in one slippery plastic piece, if it did delaminate. So I picked oils. I’m not going to bore you with all the details of how I worked each detail out–and there were quite a few of those details–but, over the next year, I did.
Did I say a year? Yes, I did. My client did not complain, although she must have been tempted. I would make a little progress, hate what was happening and stop. A little more, stop. My students laughed at me, and wondered why their master teacher could make something so hard. Well, in my defense, hundreds of strokes for windows, a swing, chain, shutters, roof, yard, road, things I could see in the pictures provided and things that had been added later I couldn’t were all things I had to pull together into that one image. Reverse perspective for a dyslexic. I had to get transparencies of the house, so I could turn them over. Hundreds of times turning it over, seeing back to front, front to back. Some days I had to scrape it off and start over. No fun.
But finally, and eventually, I began to make progress in the right brush, paint, brushstroke, paint markers, when to wipe off, scrape, and even when to add a touch or two on the front side, and we had the first one of the two ready for Christmas. Tresa had us set up a Christmas arrangement with the picture at its center. (link #2, window painted, with Christmas decorations) We photographed it, and she made her Christmas card out of it, giving me, the artist, due recognition on the card. Well, but, the card was delayed by a fall, an operation, a husband in the hospital and daily trips to Chapel Hill even in sleet with a newly operated on shoulder.
Meanwhile, I finished the second painting behind a glass window for the friend she gifted the painting to, the one who had given her the windows. Ice and snow, more trips to Chapel Hill with a healing, freshly-operated on, shoulder. Yes, people’s life stories continue in and around art work, and actually, I think, make the whole process more precious. Make the outcomes more stunning. The second painting was of bales of hay, a hay field, a tall tree, and a Carolina sky. (link #3, window painting with hay bales) Now it was my turn to wait. Tresa couldn’t come because of the hospital commute and no one to help her carry the finished work in and out her car.
Finally, the day came and the delivery was made, and I am waiting to call the friend for permission to share her picture abroad with her name. Until then, I will just share the picture with thanks to one of the loveliest clients of all times, Tresa Wheeling, who has sent me numerous cards of thank you’s and praised my work to the skies, and made me feel like one of the luckiest artists alive today. May every artist friend of mine be so lucky. She not only valued art for herself, but as a way of giving to others and blessed me in doing so, and my ability to keep my doors open.
To the woman, the veteran school teacher, and one who has become a lifelong friend, thanks for turning the trial of painting on glass into a learning experience, a long-term relationship, and a total delight!