Quick Stories #7 Artist as a Child

Moggill Farmhouse Brisbane Queensland © Elle 2019

Ten Days Ten Short Stories

One a day for ten days. I write when I can, do the best I can, and I am willing to put my work out there! My thoughts are Don’t Be Embarrassed, Don’t Make Excuses, Don’t Stop Writing.

Recently I completed a 10-week term on Fridays with U3A Brisbane Creative Writing Group on Zoom and enjoyed the prompts, feedback and general literary discussions.  The writers in the group are quite diverse in style and writing content.

The wordcount limit is 500 words and while I found their prompts were ‘forcing’ me to come up with something different each week, I really enjoyed doing it.  I was quickly learning how to keep them short and sweet.  Edit, edit, edit.

My characters are good, bad and ugly and the majority of the time I had no idea where they came from!

I say write for yourself first and don’t be precious about your words.  For better or worse, here are mine—the three prompts (courtesy of AWC Furious Fiction) were 1. The story’s first sentence must contain only four words. 2. The story must include something being shared. 3. The story must include the words paint, shift, wave and toast.

Artist as a Child

His pose seems unrehearsed.   Gavin sits with one shoe raised on the chair, leg bent.  His elbow rests on his elevated knee, arm dangling.  A persuasive artist, gallery patrons arrive and gladly absorb his relaxed aura.

This unperturbed look is the impression he gives to anyone who doesn’t know him better.  Apart from guest appearances, he is an horrendously difficult person to be around.

Oil paint, turpentine soaked rags, brushes, and canvas torn from frames habitually litter the studio floor.  Thus I dispute the saying “order out of chaos”.  If Gavin could do that, he would never paint a single picture.

One of his latest, and most important works, was completed in an afternoon of ranting and raving when a courier delivered the right set of three wooden easels wrapped in the wrong brown paper.

“It’s for an art installation.  It has to be unwaxed brown paper!”  He paced the concrete floor.  “The whole idea is to paint in situ.”

The courier didn’t want to understand the significance.  He was already backing out the door, having encountered Gavin’s artistic temperament once before.

“Take it up with the boss,” he said, sliding our huge door shut with a thud.

Gavin pulled irritably at the neckline of his t-shirt which had seen better days, soon to join the castoffs on the floor.  “Sabotaged!”

“I can order a roll of brown paper from the newsagent.”  I tried not to sound too down-trodden.

Gavin hissed “Elle, I don’t want stuff they cover school books with!”

I let my office diary drop, scattering a zodiac of tiny seed pods across the work bench.

“Improvise, Gavin.” I said calmly.  “You may find it works better without the absorbency.”

I dabble, you see, landscapes.  His eyes lit up and I almost heard his brain creak.

He accepted help to shift the easels closer to the window for natural light, jostling unfinished works aside.

We share the art studio, an unusual arrangement for siblings considering one is famous and the other does not want to be.

I had declined to organise tonight’s chat and chew platters, believing that I already fill the role of sales and booking manager so catering was a bit too much.  The honorary title of art advisor suits me.  Nowhere does it state I must “arrange tiny scraps of organic food on dry toast.”

When our spendthrift patron Lady Augusta arrives, she gives me a quick wave before aiming straight at Gavin to discuss her eighth portrait sitting.  Goodness knows where these works end up.

Gavin quickly grabs an illustrated catalogue, head down, apparently ready to discuss technique with a notable art critic. He tells the critic “They want me on the cover.” I wince.

Guests are moving aside as Lady Augusta swoops, all fluttering chiffon and swinging pearls. Nevertheless the exhibition is a success and I sell my lone painting; at the evening’s highest price.

——© Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021——

“Generally, emerging writers don’t write every day; some writers don’t stretch themselves; some writers don’t share their work; some writers fear feedback; just do it!” Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Old Masterpieces from New York to Brisbane

Finally reached the end of the queue © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

On a sunny Friday morning, waiting to enter GOMA Queensland’s Gallery of Modern Art, I did not photograph the great long queue of people. However, there were no privacy issues, every single person was wearing a mask. Patiently observing restrictions, we were all determined to view the European Masterpieces exhibition on loan from The Met, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Once inside, after a quick squirt of lavender hand-sanitiser, directions from the highly organised gallery staff were followed, and metered groups were ushered through the necessary sign-in to enter a specially designed viewing area. I say ‘area’ but it was more like roaming around inside someone’s home. Admittedly a large home with muted lighting and grey walls but it was what hung on those walls that definitely became awe-inspiring.

The galleries were split into three groups:

1. Devotion and Renaissance

2. Absolutism and Enlightenment

3. Revolution and Art for the People

From Giovanni di Paolo (Paradise, 1445) to Claude Monet (Water Lilies, 1916) I have written a quick overview of my visit—and I only took a handful of photographs. There are 65 works of art on display, and so famous they do not need my documentation.

Deep down I have to confess that the age and history of many of the paintings captured my attention more than the artwork itself. Scary moments frozen in time, dramatic posturing, gloomy scenes were not the order of the day for me. I loved the works with life and action and, let’s face it, realism.

French painter Georges de La Tour’s work ‘The Fortune Teller’ (see main entrance photo above) finally made sense to me when I saw it for real. It’s not about the old fortune teller at aLL.

GBW 2021

I liked the ‘essence’ of Lady Smith (Charlotte Delaval) and her children George, Louisa and Charlotte, in this family portrait where she appears lost in thought while her children tussle beside her, glancing at the viewer. The portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds (England) was commissioned by Lady Smith’s husband, a baronet and member of Parliament. Expressing cultural ideals of femininity and upper-class childhood, this work was a popular exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1787 the year it was painted.

I wandered past El Greco, Rubens, Caravaggio, Vermeer, Goya, Rembrandt, Renoir, et al, and was drawn towards the sound of violin music. I left the dimmed rooms and walked into a brightly lit area where a lone violinist was playing. He finished with a flourish and an elderly gentleman and myself clapped enthusiastically but he appeared a tad embarrassed, nodded his thanks and exited the stage.

Directly behind me was The Studio, a long gallery set out with still life objects for the budding artist to create a modern masterpiece. There is a Renaissance backdrop for live models at special times. My eyes were drawn to the interactive displays and ‘paintings’ which brought the original art to life. Shades of Harry Potter, both clever and spooky!

The theatrette was not heavily patronised and after hearing the big bosses talk, I decided to seek out one of my favourite colourful artists and that is Paul Gauguin (France 1848-1903). His ‘Tahitian Landscape, 1892’ is smaller and less vibrant than I expected. A pleasant rural scene (below left) but not his usual tropical effervescence.

Claude Monet (France 1840-1926) and his sombre ‘Water Lilies’ wished me bon voyage and I was back into the real world.

As any person who frequents an exhibition knows, the exit is via the gift shop. This low-key store had some nice items but I wasn’t feeling it. The Library Café was looking inviting.

When I thought about the great works of art I had just seen, I pondered which one I could single out, which one I thought was the cream of the crop. The pleb in me rather enjoyed a large 1670 work by Jan Steen (Netherlands) ‘Merry Company on a Terrace’ for its rich vibes and domestic disorder. The original is bigger and brighter than the image (above right) shown here.

I think perhaps Covid-19 had something to do with the way I responded to the Met Masterpieces… and it was interesting to see how each century lightened the mood.

GBW 2021

To quote architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959) “Respect the masterpiece, it is true reverence to man. There is no quality so great, none so much needed now.”

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

—–European Masterpieces—–

12 June 2021 – 17 October 2021
GOMA | Gallery 1.1 The Fairfax Gallery, Gallery 1.2, Gallery 1.3 Eric & Marion Taylor Gallery | Ticketed

https://www.qagoma.qld.gov.au/whats-on/exhibitions/european-masterpieces

Happy galley visitors © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

‘The Fishermen Know…’ said Vincent

Design and image © Gretchen Bernet-Ward 2021

Vincent Willem van Gogh (1853-1890) was a post-Impressionist painter whose works, notable for their beauty, emotion and colour, highly influenced 20th century art. He struggled with mental illness and remained poor and virtually unknown throughout his life.

Posthumously, he became one of the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art.

Vincent van Gogh

The eldest of six living children, van Gogh had two younger brothers (Theo, who worked as an art dealer and supported his older brother’s art, and Cor) and three younger sisters (Anna, Elizabeth and Willemina). Theo would later play an important role in his older brother’s life as a confidant, supporter and art dealer.

Vincent’s lifestory makes fascinating reading, he was truly the classic tortured genius, but there is much more to be learned behind the scenes, e.g. his own mother destroying many of his paintings; hoping to become a minister he prepared to take the entrance exam to School of Theology in Amsterdam; Vincent was fluent in French, German and English, as well as his native Dutch.

Wheatfield with Crows 1890 by Vincent van Gogh

Fascinating facts and more:

https://www.biography.com/artist/vincent-van-gogh

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Leonardo da Vinci said…

Gears and Cogs 15 Quotation
Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was a painter, sculptor, architect, inventor and student of all things scientific but he had difficulty waking up in the morning. He wrote “Lying on a feather mattress or quilt will not bring you renown”. One of his earlier inventions was a personal alarm clock powered by water. Based on his elementary diagrams, Leonardo’s device would trigger an alarm by the collection of water dropping into a reservoir at brief intervals. I would have thought the drip, dripping of water all night would have kept him awake. Website https://www.leonardodavinci.net/ Gretchen Bernet-Ward