Painted red poppies and purple pansies stand stark against the high cream walls of Toowoomba’s amateur theatre foyer. A local artist’s exhibition. Watercolour still life, acrylic canvas landscapes, the odd abstract work. Gracefully crab-walking (as graceful as a crab-walk can be), I trace the fifteen works lining the modest room’s U-shaped structure.
Up close. Smears of folding paint layer together, creating texture in a mess of undistinguishable swirls. From the other end of the room, the same piece, a serene mountain scape, clouds parting to set alight the pumpkin orange leaves of a fire tree.
The same technique effectively executed on a beautiful melancholy rendition of violet orchids. Their turquoise centres a brilliant flare against the outer darkness of the petals.
Delicate watercolours stand up regardless of distance.
Fine details – seen only up-close – add to the overall effect rather than take away.
A short circular table, smothered in pressed white linen, up holds the artist’s information pamphlet. I thumb open the single leaflet – fifteen works boiled down to a mere paragraph – reading the artist summary (does she feels satisfied by this description?) I return the flyleaf to its former post.
A smidgen over middle age, the artist had been actively honing her craft her entire adult life. Occasional teacher. Full-time enthusiast.
I turn before leaving, one sweeping glance taking in the collection as a whole.
Hours of work into each individual piece. Butt in chair. Paintbrush in hand. Working in the middle of the day or night; whenever the rare (but overly romanticised) pocket of ‘free time’ revealed itself. Hours.
How many hours of ‘perfect practice’ came before these red poppies and purple pansies?
Years of sketching in small note books? Obsessive reading of ‘how to’ books? The mental pull-a-part and then put-back-together deconstruction of other artist’s work? Hundreds of bad –and good – paintings and drawings.
A body of work that I am unable to see. At least directly.
Works birthed through decades of practiced passion.
I walked through the room’s U-shaped display, of an artist’s body of work; which she has dedicated many spare hours too; which she has forcefully created time for; a hobby funded by menial tasks, a boring day job; saying ‘no’ to lively invitations, in order to say ‘yes’ to her artistic sensibilities; choosing to purchase paint instead of bread; choosing to stay up late instead of going to bed; choosing art. Always.
Her hours and years of work, displayed in a single room, easily admired in less time then it takes to cook breakfast.
I linger a little longer. A second round of the room. Trying to give the artist a little more of my time, my attention. While my viewing of ten minutes is strikingly short in comparison to the hours spent executing the work – I try to take comfort in the accumulative effect. If every gallery wonderer takes ten minutes to peruse the works, perhaps it comes somewhat close to the artist’s dedication?
I hope so.