When I was a little kid, I had a paint-by-number kit… you know, one of those bilious hunks of cheap canvas board with numbered areas printed in blue ink that corresponded with little plastic tubs of oil paint. Now, I imagine they come with some sort of water-based acrylic – safer and easier for children – but this one had real slow-drying artists’ oil paint.
I might have been six years old… maybe seven. Fifty years ago.
I sat at the kitchen table, wielding the cheap brush that came with the kit, carefully cleaning it after each color and moving across the canvas matching the numbers with the proper paint. It amazed me… that I could create an actual work of art (unfortunately, my skills have advanced little since).
It didn’t seem too hard to me to make the leap beyond the preprinted canvas – surely it wouldn’t be that hard to do yourself. I was a little kid, what did I know? Nothing about composition, blending… and nothing about mixing colors.
What I especially remember is the sky above the sailboat. The scene had the boat fighting against a headwind on a dramatic tumbling, mostly overcast day – with the heavens filled with irregular patches of brown, beige, gray, and a little blue peeking through here and there. It was beautiful to me.
Now, whenever I have a sky like that… like this, my subconscious conjures up the by-the-mumbers painting of the sailboat from the distant cobwebby recesses of the past. Before I realize what I am thinking about, weather like this, fills my nose with the unmistakable odor of linseed oil and turpentine. Only then do I pause, look up, and remember the sailboat.