First off the easel for 2015 - 8x10, oil on cradled panel - this is "Fancy A Cup?"
My parents were tea drinkers. Correction. My parents drank Red Rose Tea - a company started in Saint John, New Brunswick, around about the time Monet was creating his Rouen Cathedral paintings. In Atlantic Canada, in the 1970s, there simply was no other brand of tea. Or so it seemed - at least in our household. In fact, until I left home, I had no idea there were even any other varieties of tea than Orange Pekoe.
This piece is a bit of an ode to my earliest memories of tea culture. Truthfully, the 'fancy' cups at home rarely saw the light of day. Raising four boys, I suspect my parents quickly learned that delicate breakables were best left in the safe harbour of the china cabinet. And there was no set 'tea time' in our home that I can recall. But I have indelible memories of my mom sitting in the kitchen early in the morning, prayer book in hand, hot tea nearby.
It's odd the things that stick in one's mind from childhood. I never tasted tea until well into adulthood. But I can still vividly recall the spicy smell of the tea box on the counter. The colour of the water changing as the tea steeped. And the Red Rose tea figurines. Red Rose - advertising slogan "Only in Canada, you say? Pity." - began to give away Wade miniature ceramic figurines in 1967.
My mom, not a collector by nature, never really saw any value in them. But the nuns who lived in the convent next door, did collect the figurines. I can still see the tchotchke lined up on the window sill next to the kitchen stove in the convent - each piece representing a character from a nursery rhyme.
The glazes the company was using at the time created lustrous hues that, to a young boy's eyes, were incredibly captivating. And apparently some middle-aged painters are still captivated by shiny objects too. I did an earlier painting of this particular tea cup as an entry for the 2015 Twitter art exhibit, in Norway.
But the palette was much cooler on that piece and it just didn't mesh with my 'golden' memories. This second version is much closer in feeling and tone to what the word 'tea' evokes in me. And if all goes according to plan, this will be the first in a series of 'fancy teacup' paintings. I just have to get on with nagging my friends for permission to raid their china cabinets...
Meanwhile back at the easel, I've made tea a part of my daily studio practice as well. I've moved on from Orange Pekoe these days, preferring a bracing cup of Matcha. But through such simple rituals as tea time, the thread of continuity remains. The connection to the past. The 'all is right in the world' feeling - even on those days when, clearly, all is not.
See you around the studio.