My parents are in the process of clearing out the den. Many things have been dragged out of obscurity, tattered objects blinking in their homely dust. Recently, my mother brought me something which seemed destined to live out its days melting in an ignored closet: my box of Grumbacher pastels.
Clearly, this assortment of flavors suffered during its banishment. The box itself had been demeaned by mold – you could barely see my pencil scribbles, as I was trying to work out some unknown equation which my mind apparently could not grasp merely by discussing the matter with itself. The tape crackled gallantly, as it tried to mask the split corners.
The colors themselves were faded; crumbling from decades of misuse. I must have been harsh when using them – for the most part they are broken; the stubs lost within wrappers, worn down by an overzealous, confused hand.
I can, in fact, recall the last time I used these pastels – it was 31 years ago. Now it is hateful to admit that I was in college three decades ago, but there it is and that's how it was. I was in one of my drawing classes, and our assignment was to create a poster – a work of art that can communicate a message distantly, not secretly. A simple enough thing, but sometimes these are the most difficult to visualize. Too many ideas, a surfeit of opportunities, can be blinding.
I bought a single, large swatch of paper (possibly 28" x 40") – thick and textured, ready to drink in the nourishment offered by color fueled by imagination and muscle. I had decided that my poster would be an outsized invitation/announcement. That would give me an excuse for fancy, for decoration, for all kinds of attractive inaccuracies.
I began by covering the background in swirling currents of green, which parted to make way for some pseudo-gothic lettering, And on each side of that island of verbage was a lovely lady, dressed like a barefoot princess, wearing a ragged skirt of blue, green and yellow, and dancing the Roger de Coverley.
I worked on this from 10PM to 6AM. To work such hours was extravagant, impulsive, invigorating. I had never done such a thing. To defy sleep, and welcome the dawn: my fingers tipped with the same colors as the sky. It was so exciting, to have worked hard, all through the planet's nighttime changes – changes I would ordinarially have slept through.
It was new – to be happily driven by creativity through dark, through light, until the thing was finished. And it is a cherished memory.