In the Path of Those who Came Before

Painting and drawing intensify life for me. Last spring Dave and I traveled to Paris to sketch and savor art in the museums. I expected to be moved by the paintings of my favorites, Vulliard and Bonnard, and so many other great painters. But then we found ourselves in the path of treasures that moved us in ways we didn’t expect. In the Louvre, we found ourselves gawking at ancient ceramics turned from clay, and small glass vessels fired from sand. The craftsmanship of the ancient artisans combined with time had built a richness into the patinas that no modern craftsman can replicate. Iridescent blues, greens and golds reflected back at us as we moved slowly around each tiny sculpture and vessel.

Ancient glass vase from Iran

Painting in the Louvre with watercolors is not allowed, but I couldn’t resist. I had to pull out my paints and sketchbook. How could the guards say no when one is in the midst of such delight. I think my enthusiasm was contagious because soon a flock of kids gathered around as I tried to capture thousands of years of beauty onto the slender leaves of my sketchbook. Some of the kids were in giggles as I sat with as many as 4 paintings at a time precariously balanced on my lap, waiting for each puddle of watercolor to dry while diving into another. Soon kids from all over the world, who spoke different languages, surrounded me. We laughed together as they played lookout for guards, and held my paints, and even teased me for having too many paintings going at once. And then we shared my discovering of some small detail of a carving or glaze and got caught up in it all and urged me to start another sketch. The guards discovered us of course, but just shook their heads and smiled. How grateful I was they didn’t interrupt.

A close up of a ceramic plate

Inspired from Egyptian carving

The attempts to capture the iridescence of ancient glass or ceramic glaze on paper always falls short of course, but the act of trying has a way of solidifying it in one’s imagination and memory far deeper than a photo or passing glance would. And most of all, to take part in creating, that’s the best thing to come of it. These pieces sculpted by an artisan long gone, his or her name lost to time - we are separated by thousands of years, but their art and life fuels mine. How fortunate we are when we take the time to soak in beauty created by artists who came before.

A close up of glazes from an Iranian ceramic

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