Mom’s Brushes: An Essay
The video (remember to watch the video in full screen), the short essay that follows, and this week’s final photo, are in memory of one of my favorite artists, my mother, Barbara Graser. Upon finding her brushes recently, I finally figured out her process for creativity in her painting.
Mom’s Brushes- by Adam Graser
I found Mom’s brushes today in a clear plastic container- there may be fifty or so, but I didn’t count. Some are worn, but still have value. Of course they have a sentimental value, but also in their duality in the hands of an artist; they can create something beautiful, or mask imperfections.
They were her tools, and all of them have been in her hands; the fine tipped brushes that made tiny, crooked tree branches; the fans that shaded and blended; the palette knives that pushed and scraped. Synthetic brushes, horse hair brushes- they’re all here, waiting patiently for skilled hands.
I can remember the smell of turpentine and cigarette smoke, as I would swing open the front door. These mixed odors were a sign she was painting in her crowded craft room. I would make my way down the hall to find her at her painting easel, surrounded by unfinished pieces, stacks of books on how to paint, paper towels, wrinkled tubes of oil paints, and doll houses in various stages of construction (a second genre of her arts).
With coffee close by, a cigarette in one hand, a paint brush in the other, the day was set aside for her creative time. The television in the living room blared an old musical by way of VHS tape for noise, but she didn’t need it to entertain her. She knew every line from every actor, and the words to every song. These were her, “friends in the other room”, her company that was busy doing other things, while she did hers. The only other things that had to be accomplished during her painting day, was to let the dog out every so often, and to have supper cooked at a reasonable hour for Dad. The rest of the day was hers.
Her pencil drew in the horizon, hills, and trees, that would be a guide for her brushes to fill, blend, and stipple the many hues of paint she had mixed. Her brushes were an extension of her vision, and the paint she applied was a realization of her imagination. Mom’s brushes have fashioned bright flowers, old barns, leafy shade trees, perfect blue skies, and smooth pools of water at the base of craggy mountains. Her subjects, and the scenes she created, were a reflection of her relationship with God.
Many canvases were stacked together in her craft room, most in their final stages of completion (I thought), but she had found some minute mistake in each one of them (glaring only to her), and set it aside. She would tell me how she’d fix each one. With an imaginary brush in her hand, she described with exacting gestures, the strokes that she had decided would resolve her issues with the painting. If successful, she would accept it as finished. When the previously planned rescue didn’t save the piece, she opted to paint over the entire canvas, leaving no trace of her skilled strokes of color or her vision.
“You were almost done”, I would tell her.
“I just didn’t like how it was turning out”, she would reply, and would soon start planning her next painting session.
The mirror of her mind’s eye was entirely covered with white gesso, not to concede in failure (as I used to believe), but to prepare the canvas and her creativity, for the next genesis. Masterpiece or mistake, brushes execute their tasks with indifference under the scrutiny and direction of the artist. In her case, she had as much patience as did her brushes.0