In a Place Like No Other
Bright sunlight washed over the last Sunday in October as Donna and Frank drove along East Main Street toward Eastern Point. Donna peered through the gaps between buildings at the water in Smith's Cove. Frank noticed the bright yellow that now wreathed the Aviary and suggested they visit Emma Wilkins so Donna could paint from Banner Hill. Then Frank furrowed his brow. "If she remembers me." Donna agreed so they drove up Mt. Pleasant Avenue and turned into Emma's. Euripedes sunned himself on the grass. He barked as they pulled to the side and parked the car. . .
Emma was delighted. "Grand! A paintahr come to paint on Bannahr Hill. Just like the old days." Emma positively glowed as she chronicled the dozens of painters she'd known who'd painted here. Donna, impressed, told her it was like an art history lesson. . .
. . . Donna walked over to the crest of the hill and set her easel. She placed the canvas and secured it and then took out a palette and started squeezing globs of red and yellow, blue and green. She poured some turpentine into a small can, added a little Damar varnish, grabbed a rag and a brush and started slashing at the canvas. Euripedes curled up at the base of the easel.
She scooped up a brushload of cerulean and scrubbed it into the top of the canvas. She wiped some of it off with a rag and scooped up a mixture of orange and yellow and brushed it on below the blue. She drew a strong red line to separate that from the white that was left below. An ultramarine with a touch of alizarin crimson got washed over the white at the base of the canvas and then she peppered the mid ground with greens and yellows and some cadmium red.
She worked back up to the top of the canvas and the Damar varnish she'd dropped in the can of turpentine, sticky, grabbed the pinkish white that she laid over the cerulean. She dropped her arm stepped back and looked at it, cocked her head to the right and said, "Euripedes, you're an awfully good, dog."
She stepped back to the canvas. Dabbing at the green and mixing it with a touch of cadmium red, she then swept it over and along the red line. With the handle of her brush, she scratched in squares and triangles, then grabbed a palette knife and scraped at some of the green. She dabbed at these areas with an index finger covered with a turpentine soaked rag. Canvas reappeared. She mixed a white and blue and slapped it over the squares and triangles she'd just drawn with the brush handle.
For forty minutes she scraped and scumbled, drew and scrubbed then glopped chunks of paint onto the canvas. Big washes of color were painted and repainted and covered with more vibrant layers. Lines dragged here and there. The array of colors that peaked through edges of layers produced a staccato that reverberated throughout the canvas.
She squeezed paint directly from the tubes and smeared it around the canvas. Rhythmic swirls faded in and out. Scraped more paint. Exposed more canvas. She wiped the palette knife on her jeans and applied a different pigment. Grabbed a large brush and wiped that on her jeans then loaded it with yellow and plastered. Wiped her face with the rag . . . Grabbed the tube of white paint and, like a cake decorator, added huge mounds of titanium white to the deep cerulean at the top of the canvas; took a brush and dragged some of it into the ultramarine at the base. A swath of orange was wedged into the ultramarine and then she added a few swirls of cadmium red and tipped these with white, cerulean,orange and yellow.
Stepping back to look again, she smiled and sat on the grass next to Euripedes. She looked up at the painting as she scratched the dog's ears, breathing heavily.
Emma and Frank walked up behind her and Emma spoke softly when she said, "May we look?"
"Oh, sure," Donna said.
Frank and Emma stared at the painting. Emma looked down at Donna and Euripedes.
Frank said, "Powerful."
Emma said, "Well! I mighta knowed. You paint like a man."
"Oh, my." Emma winced. "Didn't mean an offense, Donna. But when I was a girl that's what they'd say if a woman was really good. Y'know like Cecelia or Theresa"
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