Sunday, December 12, 2010

Creating Crabs on Canvas

One of the high points of this adventure has been spending individual time with the various women in my life. These are women who are some of my most missed soul-sisters, both young and old. I'm so fortunate that one of these women is my daughter-in-law, Buffy, whose company I adore. She's so accomplished in all that she does, and I'm honored that she finds the time to share who she is with me.

One night last week, she took me along as she and several of her teaching colleagues were to attend a class on learning to paint a blue crab, one of the iconic symbols of Ocean Springs art. I, who have never been able to draw well enough to even get good grades in penmanship, knew this was a lesson in futility for me, but I gladly accepted Buffy's invitation, just for the pleasure of her company.

We walked into a basement studio on the banks of a lazy lake where a dozen women were uncorking their respective bottles of wine. The artist and her assistant were busily pouring paint into little cups that were placed on plastic plates to serve as our palettes. Each of us was handed a blank square gallery-wrapped canvas and asked to choose a spot with a canvas stand and a bucket of brushes. As we all took our places, the artist took the stage.

She began with a simple series of charcoal lines on a white canvas background. We then moved on to outlining with black paint. We were told to simply do what she did. My work wasn't looking promising, and the only comment I received from the circulating assistant was, "Those black lines are heavy." I was used to failing at art, so this didn't bother me. I kept reminding myself that the night was about time with Buffy, sort of like coloring was about time with my little sister and then my children and grandchildren. I decided to go with my natural wing-it flow. What did I have to lose?

Amazingly, as we followed the lead of the artist, each of our crabs-on-canvas began to develop its own shape and personality. The lesson began to feel like fun. As we layered and blended color-by-color, I began to become quite confident and felt rather creative. Each budding artist had something that could be readily identified as a crab, but nothing was wall-ready.

The artist told us to step back from our easels and carry the works-in-progress back to another table for application of "secret sauce." This was a series of squeeze bottles filled with various paint colors. The idea was that we could use the bottles to apply flourishes and details that make the paintings pop.

What fun it was to watch each of us create googly eyes and wild whiskers for our finishing touches! And what a difference the secret sauce made. Both Buffy and I were proud of our finished projects. Buffy's now hangs in her living room to greet all guests and can even be seen on her facebook page. Mine might eventually grace my beach house, wherever that may be.


  1. I would love to have some painting lessons. That sounded like so much fun. Without good ttraining, and without great talent, learning to paint on your own, you pick up too many bad habits, as I have.

    Like the title. Enjoy yourself.

  2. Art is a funny thing. I'm sure your pictures were attractive and at least had some resemblance to a crab. However, I've seen some paintings in museums that I still have trouble trying to understand how ANYONE would consider them "works of art". Of course I've seen some excellent pictures that really looked great. I studied art for three years in NOLA under the tutelage of Gladys McVey. Still can't paint tho! ☻

    One of my favorite living artists is Mitchell Tolle of Berea, Kentucky. He made a profound statement which encourages budding artists. "An original is priceless but A copy is worthless!" You, Y, are definitely not a copy.