My cousin is an artist. Her paintings, often watercolors, vibrate with color and passion. Sometimes she shares her work on Facebook and I marvel at her talent. Truth be told, I’m also a bit jealous, as this kind of talent does not run in my veins.
She posted this picture not long ago with the caption: “Thinking of Grandpa Pat while using his pencils.” It turns out that her watercolor pencils were once held and used by our grandfather. She called him Grandpa Pat, I called him Poppa Pat. Either way he was ours and much loved, but clearly she knew him in a way I did not.
I did not know that Poppa Pat had art supplies. Sure, I knew he could draw, and I always enjoyed the small hand-painted holiday postcards he sent us. I particularly remember a grinning jack o’ lantern from some long ago Halloween. I can still feel the rough, dry texture of the paint strokes on the card and see the jaunty crooked black grin. I knew Poppa Pat was a singer and a mad whistler. I knew he was a storyteller. I knew he loved to eat oatmeal with raisins for breakfast. But I didn’t know that he was the kind of person who had art supplies, the kind of person who knew what crayon d’ache pencils were. I’m a bit jealous that my cousin knew this part of my grandfather and I didn’t–and saddened that I didn’t pay more attention.
It follows that I did not know that our grandfather had shared his art supplies with my cousin. When I saw her photo, I was touched that his supplies were still being used –that they were treasured. “He gave me all of his art supplies one of the last times I saw him,” she wrote, “ I have his oil paints (mostly dried up but I’m keeping them), his pastels, linoleum cutting tools, and his crayon d’ache pencils (watercolor pencils). He was so excited to share them with me.” What did my grandfather really think and feel when he handed those cherished supplies to my cousin? A delight in a shared passion? A recognition that he could no longer use these tools? A sorrow for the passing of time? A pride in his granddaughter’s talent? There must have been an element of bitter along with the sweet. I know, though, that he would be thrilled that his crayon d’ache pencils, held in his granddaughter’s hands, were still actively creating, linking the two of them through time and the creative process.
About two weeks ago, a picture of a painting popped up in my Facebook feed with the caption: “This little one is from my cousin’s photo in Acadia (National Park), Maine.” My cousin had painted a watercolor, inspired by a photograph I’d recently shared.
Here is the original photo I shared on Facebook:
Here is her painting:
And I wondered. Did she use my grandfather’s watercolor pencils to create this? I’d like to think so. I could ask her and find out, but I’d rather not. I’d rather simply believe she did. Either way, to me this painting is a circle– from Poppa Pat to my cousin to me. It feels rich and rewarding and right.
After a quick Facebook exchange to work out details, the watercolor is on its way to my home. Here, like my grandfather’s art supplies, it will be treasured. There is sweet solace in this painting, this artistic legacy, that connects us through the years.