“Faster!”, the old man said.
“Quicker”, he urged.
“I’m trying!” I replied back.
My 16 year old hands hastily slathered blue watercolor paint across the top of the paper, as I attempted to follow his instructions, hurried though they were. I was trying to paint a landscape of a Russian cathedral, mid-winter, and the skyline called for a unique shade of blue. There was a specific technique for applying it in such a scenario, and I hadn’t expected the paint to seep into the paper quite so quickly. After a few failed attempts, he showed me the technique himself.
Old men didn’t move quickly, I’d thought.
But this one sure as fuck did.
He didn’t normally move quickly, or speak quickly. But, when the old codger needed speed, his turtle-shaped body rose to the occasion with surprising grace.
Draftsmen are a mean breed. In his day, there was nothing that wasn’t done by hand. Good ol’ human brain power were all you had to work with. You had to be able to visualize forms in three dimensional space.
Another master, this one.
And briefly, my teacher.
Soft spoken. Patient. And precise.
But, he actually liked abstract art. Though, it kind of makes sense when you think about it. Abstract art was probably very relaxing for him, considering his former career.
He would wrinkle his nose when I went off course and drew horned demons into assignments that were meant to be abstract pieces.
When it came to realism I was methodical, and discerning, while he, on the other hand, practically cleaved through his paper, leaving a rigid framework he would refine and iterate upon with pale, blue-veined hands.
He told me, once, that computers had taken over his field, and left less and less work for those such as himself.
But something, undoubtedly, was lost in those days. It happens from time to time: an industry shrivels and dies, and people drift into other occupations. Technology gifts us tools, gives us shortcuts, and sometimes negates entire skillsets almost overnight.
A survivor, then, must embrace and understand the fundamental latticework of every subsequent innovation, and then learn to manipulate and exploit it to suit their own work.
Sometimes I wish I could talk to Mr. Adair. There are things I wish that I could ask him.
At the back of the studio, he posted some of his work against the windows, so that the light could shine through it, and illuminate it.
I do the same thing myself, from time to time. Sometimes it’s helpful to see your work in a different “light”.
Get it? Light? Ya know?
Anyway, a strange bug got inside my workspace, and crawled across a transparency of some art work I have taped on the window.
It reminded me of the ol’ turtle-draftsman, hunched over his desk and whipping papers around while nosily clearing his throat.
I’ve had so many teachers, through my lifetime.
Sometimes I feel moved to tell their stories, and recount their experiences.
This was one such occasion.