On recent afternoons, I’ve been preparing panels for Dad’s archives. This involves a good cleaning, examining the varnish and, if necessary, re-coating. When done, I’ll take a small selection up to the bedroom. In almost every case, he remembers the location and circumstances in which each was made. “Experiments with squeeze bottle and fingertips,” he’ll say, or, “Hasty thing under an umbrella.”
The late afternoon light creeps in through the bedroom patio door, dappling the hardwood and the foot of the coverlet. Outside, Blackie Spit’s endless mud flats wink with silver and distant channel sparkles. New spring eagles play tag at an alarming speed, cavalier in their fly-bys. They own the canopy. In the meantime, the paintings at hand give back their gift of life, as Dad and I mosey through the British Isles and re-live the rose-smelling pace of one of his old Austin 7 Rubies. We accompany the seal hunters of Tuktoyaktuk, climb the Purcells, laze in the impressionist afternoons of Brittany, attend the gardens of Kyoto and run with the bathers on the beaches of Montego Bay. We paddle our own Nicomekl River estuary, beneath our home at Crescent Beach.
Dad props up. “Hand me a pen,” he says. He jots something on the back of an 8 x 10. “From the bow of Tom’s boat, Barkley Sound”, or “A very cold night in the Cevennes with James and the Alfa” are typical notations. Having spent nearly every day of the past six months poring over Dad’s sketches, brushwork, fancies and fantasies in detail, at this moment I instead rest my gaze on his eyes and mouth – elegant silver lashes curtaining delight and dazzle, with the mouth-twists and crinkles of a focused, transported imagination. It takes me back to a moment in my childhood when I watched him at his easel. I’d been distraught, crying perhaps, and needed calming. Whatever my baby-concern, it melted there in his presence, his centred face transfixed by the care and innocence of a spirit besotted, enthralled by an infinite love.
PS: “Work is love made visible.” (Kahlil Gibran)
“To create a little flower is the labour of ages.” (William Blake)
Esoterica: These afternoons, we pour ourselves into a great devotion — the result of a lifetime’s conviction. Artists suspect and then investigate, and are ultimately confirmed: our love is shared. “My thoughts go out to you, my Immortal Beloved. I can only live wholly with you or not at all — Be calm my life, my all. Only by calm consideration of our existence can we achieve our purpose to live together. Oh continue to love me, never misjudge the most faithful heart of your beloved.
Robert’s health update:
After reviewing recent bloodwork showing a marked increase in tumour markers, plus a number of days of declining energy, Robert has made the decision to discontinue chemotherapy. He is resting and spending time with his family, with some bursts of reinvention and re-organizing of the world. Your warm responses and caring messages are so deeply appreciated by our family and the Painter’s Keys team. Thank-you each and every one, for your continued encouragement and friendship.
oil on canvas, 40 x 64 inches
You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.