As I was pondering my recent foray into the watercolor arts, I decided I would paint my sister a picture for her birthday. Which is tomorrow. And no, I haven’t started on the picture… it’s only 8 o’clock, I have plenty of time… to… do it tomorrow…
She loves horses, though, so I was going to paint her a picture of a horse, but do it all cave-art style (that’s easy, right!?). So I went looking for examples I could emulate. Found some gorgeous ones:
I love the simplicity of this picture. The partial outline, the way the legs fade out… there’s just enough to convey absolutely that this is a horse and nothing else.
There’s another that has such a marvelous use of color it makes me envious!
The speckles in the upper right and the wonderful reddish hues in the middle left just make me go all drooly. Even if they are simple and stylized, even if we easily recognize these as cave paintings, what they are not is *unskilled.* And I realized, this is not going to be easy at all.
As I drove home thinking of the beauty of these images, wondering what kind of person painted them – wondering if the painter was a man or a woman, old or young – I suddenly wondered… what did the cave painters practice on?
Seriously, these works of art are not their sketch pads and practice sheets. These are aren’t children playing with finger paints. These aren’t adults with child-like skill levels playing with finger paints. These are skilled artists. I wonder what they did for practice, because whoever painted these had been doing this for some time. This was not their first foray into the medium or the arts!
I wondered if they used cured hides like canvases? Perhaps they decorated their clothing with similar scenes.
Maybe they used small, flat stones as their sketch books, rested on their laps as they sat around the fires in the evening while someone told stories of the hunt, the animal roasting over the fire and wafting the most delicious aromas around the camp. I wonder if they had a little pallet of pigments: ocher, umber, the charred end of a stick that had fallen from the fire…
All these things wander through my mind as I stare at my blank, white paper and try to decide where the first stroke of my brush should go. I already have the frame for it, I just need to make the art. Perhaps I’ll close my eyes and ask some great ancestor to help.
One thing is for sure: I’ll never throw away my practice art, no matter how bad it is. Maybe in 1,000 years or so, a curious artistic soul will find them and like the practice sketches as well as the refined pieces. And maybe, just maybe, a little bit of her past will settle into place when she does.