Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Happy Accidents"

This poem is spillover from the December 3, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] fuzzyred, [personal profile] readera, [personal profile] erulisse, and [personal profile] shadowdreamer. It also fills the "Fun" square in my 2-5-19 card for the [community profile] fluffbingo fest. This poem was sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Shiv thread of the Polychrome Heroics series, and leads into "Happy Little Trees."

"Happy Accidents"

[Sunday, August 23, 2015]

Shiv had pounced on
the first art class with
John Hank Anderson
after a summer spent
visiting Motor City.

Ancient Art included
a lesson in making paint
and how to work with
traditional paints.

Shiv was fascinated
by the shades of ochre
from red to yellow to brown,
deep black manganese and
white china clay. There
was also a blue-gray clay.

The limited palette didn't
bother him, even though it
wasn't what he usually chose.

He had seen plenty of things
that he could paint with this.

The artists carefully mixed
powdered pigments into
linseed oil to make batches
of thick, creamy paint.

It reminded Shiv of
creme pastels, and
he quite enjoyed it.

Some of the others didn't,
but that was fine -- there were
brushes and gloves for them.

John Hank taught everyone
a technique called alla prima
or wet-on-wet, which worked
beautifully with the creamy paints.

This time they painted not on
canvas but actual shoulderblades.

Shiv used yellow ochre to lay down
the foreground with blue-gray above.

He painted a buffalo in tall grass
using yellow and brown ochres
with just a few dabs of red.

Above that he painted
a tall prairie sky with
tufts of white clouds.

At one point, his hand
slipped and smudged
part of the buffalo's head.

"Crud," Shiv muttered.

"It's okay," said John Hank.
"You're working in the wet.
Just take your paint knife and
carefully scrape off that part,
then rebuild your layers."

"You can really fix mistakes
that easy?" Shiv said, dubious.

"There are no mistakes in
this class, only happy accidents,"
John Hank said with a wink.

Shiv figured it was one of
those things everyone else
knew but he didn't, and
just shrugged it off.

He only had to touch up
the sky a little, then redo
the black head and a tiny bit
of the yellow hump behind it.

He used a fan brush to make
a few scattered white hairs.

The painting wouldn't really
match any of his rooms, but
that was okay -- he could give it
to someone on the Omaha rez,
and they would love it for sure.

Shiv was lazily using his finger
to dab clouds at the top of
the shoulderblade when
John Hank stopped by him.

The clouds weren't all coming out
exactly as Shiv had intended,
but they looked more natural
that way, and so he was trying
to see them as happy accidents.

"You seem to like this medium,"
the older man said. "I'm glad."

"It's awesome," Shiv said.
"Not my favorite colors, but
I love the texture and I found
ways to work with the palette."

"You like the technique?"
John Hank asked him.

"Yeah, it's really interesting,"
Shiv said. "Thanks for telling me
how to fix the fuckups. I can't
wait to get back home and try
this out with my creme pastels."

"Alla prima works beautifully with
that medium," John Hank said.
"Do you like video tutorials?
I know you've had issues
with previous art teachers."

"I love videos," Shiv said.
"I can play them back as often
as I want so, and nobody can
yell or throw things at me."

"Stay after class, then, if you've
got a minute," John Hank said.
"I would like to introduce you
to an old friend of mine. He's
a great painter, and he hasn't
raised his voice in decades."

"Sounds like a pretty cool dude,"
Shiv said, wiping his hands on
a soft rag. "Okay, I'm done."

Not everyone was, but some
of the other students were
already starting to clean up,
so Shiv followed suit.

"For those of you who
enjoyed working alla prima,
we have some other artists
scheduled to teach portraiture
in it later this month, complete with
live models," John Hank announced
as he handed out flyers for them.

Shiv took some and tucked
those in his pocket so he could
finish cleaning up his space.

He even stayed behind
to help wash the tables.

When they were done,
John Hank pulled out
a tablet computer and
brought up a video.

Shiv watched as
an old guy with
a fluffy white Afro
painted a bunch of
trees and a mountain.

It looked nothing like
Shiv's work, but it was pretty.

"This is Rob Ross," said John Hank.
"He has spent years working for PBS, so
you have plenty of videos to go through.
The older ones are landscapes, then in
the nineties he did portraits for a while --
including soups -- some still-life pictures
of various things, and now he's into wildlife."

"I like painting horses," Shiv said. "I do
okay with landscapes too. People,
though ... I dunno." He shook his head.

Drawing people tended to get him
into way too much trouble.

"They're just videos, Shiv,
you can pick and choose
whatever interests you,"
John Hank assured him.

"Yeah, but I don't know if
I could really do it," Shiv said.

"Remember what I said about
'happy accidents' ...? That is one
of Rob's lines," said John Hank.

"Yeah, that reminded me of
watercolor," Shiv said, leaning
to take a closer look at the video.

The style of art on the screen
didn't bear much resemblance
to what Shiv usually drew, but
maybe that was a good thing.

Shiv thought about how much
of his new and improve life
came down to happy accidents.

Maybe it was time for him
to go looking for opportunities
instead of just waiting for
them to fall into his lap.

Besides, this looked like fun.

"So do you want the address
for the archive?" John Hank said.

"Yeah, thanks," Shiv replied.
"I think I'll give it a try."

* * *


Rob Ross -- He has tinted skin, brown eyes, and loosely nappy hair worn in an Afro. He has a mustache and beard. Brown in his youth, his hair has turned white in old age. His heritage is Cherokee and African. Rob spent some time in the Air Force, but disliked the effect on his personality, so after a decade of that he retired from it in 1971.
Having taking some alla prima art classes from Willa Alexander, he became a painter. He taught private lessons but also worked with the Air Force and veteran organizations to teach soldiers. In 1981, Rob began working with PBS doing standalone lessons and appearing in other people's programs. In 1983, he premiered The Joy of Painting. Most paintings from the show's first decade featured landscapes, often of the Alaskan wilderness where Rob had served. He became enormously popular and famous, which upset Willa. She claimed that he had stolen her technique, even though she hadn't invented it and their personal approaches diverged.
By the 1990s, superpowers were becoming more known and the prejudice aggravated Rob, so he decided to do something about it. He started painting portraits, including soups with visible manifestations. This nearly got his show canceled, but PBS stood by him -- and the soups -- and in time the popularity recovered. Later, Rob worked in still life, wildlife, and other subjects.
Origin: Although born with the potential for a soothing voice, Rob did not develop it until after he left the military. Then his pursuit of peaceful practices and his resolve never to raise his voice again allowed it to reach super level.
Uniform: While painting or teaching, he wears what he calls his "timeless uniform" of jeans and a button-down shirt. Off duty, he tends to stick with similar simple garments.
Qualities: Master (+6) Alla Prima Painter, Master (+6) Serenity, Expert (+4) Rapport, Expert (+4) Visual-Spatial Intelligence, Good (+2) Animal Handling, Good (+2) Air Force Veteran, Good (+2) Dexterity
Poor (-2) Relationship with Willa Alexander
Powers: Master (+6) Soothing Voice, Good (+2) Teacher
Motivation: Never yell again.


* * *

Traditional paints can be made in various ways. This post about Viking paint uses grinding and resembles many Native American techniques. The method I used for making cave paint was thus: Take a rough stone with a palm-sized hollow. Pour a small amount of linseed oil into the hollow; I think it was 1-2 tablespoons. Rub a nugget of red ocher (or other earth pigment) in the oil. Rub and rub and rub. When finished, the paint should be very thick and opaque. It takes 20-30 minutes to make a small amount of paint that doesn't go very far, but the quality is excellent.

Prehistoric pigments produced a palette including shades of red, orange, yellow, brown, black, and white. Variations in mineral content allowed less common colors such as red-violet or blue-gray in some areas.

Painting on bone is one of several fun things to do with animal skulls.

See Shiv's shoulderblade art.

In local-America, Bob Ross was a famous painter. This infographic shows a statistical analysis of subjects in his paintings.

Alla prima or wet-on-wet is a technique primarily used in oil painting, but it can work with any slow-drying liquid medium. Watch a video of alla prima portrait painting.

These are the kinds of portraits that Rob Ross was doing: a woman with blue hair, a woman with purple hair, a woman with chameleon skin, a woman with rabbit ears, a woman in a cloak, a man in a mask, and an elven boy.
Tags: art, cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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