The Painting


I guess that between her and coffee with Kathy I've got out more in the past couple months than I have in the last four years. It's mostly cowardice, but I know that I'm not ready to meet with any of the group yet. The guilt is still too high, knowing what I've put them through. No excuses except my own pigheaded anger. I can see no way that I could ever look Cat in the eyes again. Not with what I've done to her. She would have every right too, and must hate me.

Denise has been helping me again. I've started putting gesso on the canvas, and I've let her brush a lot of it on. It's just white on white. I can see right away that I'm going to need more help from her. Even with the easel lowered all the way down, I can't reach the top of the canvas. The only way I can is if I sit it on the floor and not on the easel. Then I can't get to the bottom of the canvas to paint. When the canvas is in the easel it has to be clamped in between the cross stays. So the winch can raise and lower without the canvas falling out. I'll for sure need to use the winch to get to the bottom of the painting.

I've finally started on the painting. It's like normal with Denise, question after question. Why am I just using grays and browns, black and a buff white? I tell her it's called Grissel and Glazing method. You put the darks and lights on as a base layer. Just blocking in the basic form. You use only neutral colors, grays, black, white, and gray brown, or white brown. All in multiple tones and shades. It ends up looking like a black and white photograph. Then you start adding the colors in, all in thin almost clear glazes.

I explained glazing to Denise the best way that I've ever found. To think of it as layers of stained glass one on top of the other. Yellow on top of blue makes green, two glazes of yellow on top of blue make a lighter green. But just like layers of stained glass, it seems like your looking into something with depth. Like you can stick your fingers down into the paint. If you do it right you can capture the glow in a person's eye, or in the tones of skin that glows. All the colors seem to flow one into the other seamlessly.

The old masters like DaVinci's Mona Lisa, will have as much as a hundred layers of glazing. That's how all their works have that warm glow to them, or shine. It's also how the forms in their painting seem to be on top of the canvas, have that three-dimensional look to them.

I've started letting Denise paint in some of the color in the background. With the Grissel underlayment, it's a little like paint by number. Plus I'm mixing all the colors for her. I tell her that's how all the old masters did it. They had students and assistants paint some parts of the painting. As the masters got older the assistants painted more and more of the painting.

I can get the painting off the easel onto the floor, but I can't get it clamped back on the frame without Denise' help. It slows me down a little but not much. Kathy wants me to bring in photographs of stages as I go. Their starting to post them in the art store. We had coffee again at the bookstore. She talked to her professor about a restoration and preservation career. She said that he was surprised by the suggestion, but he felt that it would be a very good option for her.

The glazing layers take a lot of work and time, splitting the canvas between the times I can work from the floor to the easel takes a little more planning so that the colors overlay correctly. I hope that I don't end up with transitions between the top that I can't reach when it's on the easel, to the bottom that I can't reach when it's on the floor. I tried to lay it on its side, but it just felt so off. That I felt uncomfortable painting like that. This f!!king chair is a pain in my...

Denise and I cooked lasagna last night, and send a lot home to her mother and brother. I'm going to have to start watching how much I eat; I'm starting to pick up a few pounds. Maybe I'll have to start wheeling my ass around the block a few times. See if I can rig up a bar in a doorway to do chin-ups. After almost four years of TV dinners and soup, it's good to eat real food again. I had better look for some healthier recipes to cook.

It's coming along; I'm up to about thirty layers of glazes on areas of his face and other skin. The glass of the beer bottle took a few too. It's weird some of the things that are giving me troubles. The stainless steel of the dishwasher, and the window showing the night behind him. It wouldn't be any trouble to show them in as realistic. But with the rest of the background in somewhat fuzzy. They can't stand out as clear, then it would take away from the figure. To work the way I want it to, only the figure can be in sharp focus.

The jeans are giving me a little trouble too. It's hard to realize all the colors that show in a pair of worn comfortable jeans. Plus a lot of it shows up as individual threads, different colored threads. The window is causing me problems too. Same as the dishwasher. How to show it in as realistic enough manner to be recognizable. Yet blurry enough to be indistinct and not take attention away from the figure. It's hard to imagine white and gray glazes in a night black window. My old airbrush is working well there. The marble counter top is a pain too.

Kathy wants bigger photographs as the painting gets closer and closer to being done. She wants to post them, and close-up photos of key sections, at the store. I just hope that none of it gets back to Julie or any of the group. I don't want them to see it until it's done and given to Julie. She needs to be the first to see the finished painting. I told Kathy that too, no finished picture until I'm sure that Julie has gotten it.

I'm starting to see Dennis looking out of those eyes.

It's done.

Three months, give or take a little, it's taken since I started laying down color. Well three months and two weeks, I haven't been able to let it go for the two weeks. I've got it turned so that I can see it from about anywhere in my little cubbyhole. I've even bought a light that mounts to the top of the easel. It had to be a natural sunlight lamp too. Night and early mornings I have the light on. Daytime and evenings, I watch the shadows and sunlight crawl across it.

It is Dennis, standing there looking that me.

That's why I'm going to ship it to Julie tomorrow. I had Denise help me put a sheet over it today. At first, I was looking at it with a sense of accomplishment, yes even pride. Damn I did something good; I don't think that I've ever had anything turn out this good.

Then I started catching a look at it through the corner of my eye. Or when I woke up in the morning. When I'd be doing something else and look up and there it would be. It quit being an accomplishment, a painting. Then it became Dennis...and that brought me back to my shame and guilt, my sorrow. I don't want to go back into that anger and pain, back to my loss. I've started to walk out of my deep dark hole, and I don't want to go back.

So I had to cover it.

After school today, I had Denise help me. We took the final finished photographs. Took all the packaging that had come with the canvas. We cut an old blanket up to cover the face and back up. Then put it back in all of its packaging material. I put in all 187 drawings too. Taped it up as best as we could, and called UPS to do a pick-up and delivery tomorrow. The agent thought I was nuts when I wanted it insured for $25,000, for delivery in the same city. Nevertheless, I got what I wanted.

Denise still comes over and we cook and talk. We took a little trip and gave Kathy the finish photographs, and had coffee with her, even had lunch. She asked when I was going to start another painting. It set me back with a jolt. I'd never even thought about doing another painting. But why not...? I'd been busy, feeling good, accomplishing something when I'd been doing Dennis. Why...not? I told her that I'd have to think about that. But we'd still come and see her for coffee sometimes.

On Face Book a couple of weeks later, I got a message and an image. The picture was of their long wall in Dennis and Julie's living room. The couch with the painting centered over it. It's been framed and had a gallery light mounted over it. Nothing else was on that thirty-foot wall, just the painting. The message read:

Damn you Jake;

I'd just stopped having to cry every day. Then I got that painting. Yes, I know that it was from you Jake; it could be from no one else. No return address, no note, it's not even signed. But it can only be from you. I couldn't even get it all unwrapped before I broke down, and started crying so hard I couldn't think.

I had to call my mom, and I couldn't even talk to her when she answered the phone. But they came up here for me. My Dad had to finish unwrapping it. Mom and I were crying so hard, I think he shed a few tears too.

Jake it was two days before I could go back to work. IT IS DENNIS. Jake it's as if I got a small piece of him back. When I go make my coffee in the morning, I find myself saying 'good morning' to it, to him. It's as if his eyes are watching over me. I ration myself to looking at two of the drawings a day. Jake you gave me something when I needed it most. Something that I didn't even know that I needed. A small piece of him to watch over me. I love you Jake! I can never thank you enough, and you can never know how much this means to me.

I love you, Julie.

Talk to Cat.

On Face Book, about a week later. I sent a friend request, to Cat. It wasn't but about five minutes later, I got an answer and a message.

Julie wouldn't tell me why I had to go to her house. One look told me three things.

It's really Dennis.

You did it, the painting.

You're back!


I guess I will.

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