SOMETIMES, all it takes is a one-word prompt to get us writing.
Today’s Daily Post writing prompt: PAINT
PAINT. That’s today’s Daily Post prompt from the gnomes hiding away there in their office on the other side of the planet over in WordPress land.
This is the first Daily Post prompt I have done. Why I am doing it is because the usual sort of writing I do is journalistic. Sure, it’s online writing so I can break those old journalism taboos that I was educated to use and make use of the first person and call on personal experience and anecdotes. But… it is still journalism.
Now, inspired by The Daily Post, I can indulge in personal writing. I can write from inside my head and the memories stored in there. I can call on those things I mention above, like my own experience. I can speculate, though my journalism mind insists quietly that when I do that I make it clear.
I suppose I could also resort to fiction — can you have a fictional Daily Post? I’m loathe to do that because, well, something in me rebels at the thought because fiction is making it all up, isn’t it? It’s a product of the head and not the world, though the head is surely part of the world but you get what I mean. Fiction must surely be the easy way out.
Fiction is all my friend down in Tasmania, Yvonne, writes. It is only when you know her that her fiction seems more like fact with a light overlay of fictional form. It’s like she just changes people’s names and compresses and alters times and dates, bit I’ll say no more for fear of her wrath at giving away the secrets of her art.
On reading today’s Daily Post prompt images came to mind. This being so, perhaps this article will be a series of vignettes. Maybe. Maybe not. I’ve just started to write and treat it as a stream of consciousness thing, so I don’t know whet will eventuate.
Here goes, anyway.
Ken was the first image to come into my mind on reading today’s prompt: PAINT.
It has been a year since I last saw Ken. It had been several years before that that we previously met. Ken is, or was now that he has retired from the trade, a painter. A painter of houses, rooms, buildings. He liked using low-VOC (volatile organic compounds — the chemical stuff you smell in freshly painted buildings) paints because, he said, they were probably better for your health than breathing those chemical fumes from ordinary paints
I see him in my mind weating his white, paint-splattered overalls. I hear his slow, considered, fact-laden speech. I watch his slow, deliberate movements that reminded me of those of people who have had a lifetime of physical work and whose muscles are no longer supple. I remember his thinning grey hair.
I also remember Ken as a tinkerer in appropriate technology whether that was building or renewable energy systems or something else. It should not be all that surprising that he was, still is, I’m sure, a long time member of Australia’s Alternative Technology Association.
After our brief meeting a year ago Ken told me he was retiring from painting and going to live in a country town. He’s now done that. I’m sure that town will only benefit form Ken’s knowledge and skills. And, maybe, just maybe, you might catch him painting a house or two.
The colour wheel
Strange how memories from long ago spring to life when prompted by some word, like: PAINT.
That’s what happened as my mind leapt the decades to my youth in far-away Brisbane. That is because in one of the suburbs of that city, which one I’ve forgotten, was one of those traditional Queenslander houses made of weatherboard and under that house was a room where Michael Murphy and I joined others for a Saturday morning oil painting class.
The class was taught by an artist of some note in Queensland, but like the suburb where he lived his name, too, is forgotten. I can’t even remember his face. Whatever notoriety he had I was unaware of as Brisbane’s art circles were not my haunt. What I do remember is that the first thing he got me to paint was the colour wheel used to identify adjacent and opposite colours.
I went on to practice oil painting for awhile, even when I moved to Sydney. Landscapes and buildings mostly. Urban. Then I returned to an art form I had earlier practiced — photography. And there I have stayed, indulging it it less as art and more as reportage and documentary.
But, whenever I see an illustration of a colour wheel my mind dashed back there to that little room below that old, weatherboard Queenslander and to that man, face and name forgotten, but who I still fondly remember.
Yes, it’s true. I was banned from painting the upstairs rooms where my partner and I were living.
My banning — it was less a blatant banning than a subtle and at time less-than-subtle discouragement — came because my partner lacked the faith that I actually was capable of paining a wall or two. She thought me capable in some things, but not painting, no way. That was something better left to her. ‘Slapdash’ was the term she used to describe some of what I did, and that would presumably include painting although she had never seen me paint anything. Maybe that was the problem.
So, it was her, this woman trained in secondary maths teaching and civil engineering design drafting, who transformed those bland walls to the warm yellow they became. It was me, the person who had dabbled in fine art, who watched.
I’m sure that it is a way of avoiding disruption to out domestic harmony that she is hiring a professional painter to repaint our small apartment.
That prompt: PAINT. It gave rise to another image in mind that followed the two above. It wasn’t in the distant past but in the present now.
Paint. It is here, at the entrance to my apartment. And it is flaking. When it came to mind I had to dash out to the entrance and in the fading light of a cloudy, late-winter Sydney day, open a camera app on my iPad and take a photo of that paint in all its flakiness. That’s the featured photo with this story.
It is pertinent because I wanted to have Ken, who appears as the first recollection of this prompt, to come and paint the entrance as well as the rest of the apartment. That’s when I learned of his moving out of the city. Now I will have to find someone else.
I had thought that the flaking paint might be flaking lead-based paint, which is toxic, lead being a heavy metal. It isn’t, it is just some other paint that didn’t adhere to the cement.
So that’s its story. Not every day that flaking paint becomes the feature of a story no matter how brief, But today, well, it is.