Keep your Brushes Wet

Photo by cottonbro on

My Instagram feed sometimes provides short vignettes from the BBC. A while back, I watched a short segment about Ross Muir – an artist in Glagow. He was an addict who turned his life around because of a set of paints. In the 15 second advert for the BBC Loop about him, there was a soundbite that stuck with me. He said, “Keep your brushes wet”.

He was talking about how you can’t be an artist if you don’t practice your art. Of course, I can’t find that preview clip anymore (see the longer vignette below) now that I’m looking for it. Alas, my Google-fu fails me. But I hear you, bro.

Day by day he turned away from drugs. Day by day he painted, and painted, and painted. And now he’s clean, and he’s an artist.

I’ve been thinking about that. A painter needs to keep their brushes wet, and eventually, they become an artist, not just a painter.

Quarantine-2020 has inspired lots of people to do lots of things, because there’s been much time to dedicate to the doing of the thing. So. Much. Time. And now, everyone (it seems) knows how to make sourdough, or banana bread, or the perfect set on strawberry jam, or some elusive stitch in crochet, or rebuild the carburetor in your lawnmower, or if you’re my gentleman associate, play the bagpipes. A year ago, he couldn’t read music, and now, he’s out in the garage most nights of the week playing Amazing Grace and Scotland the Brave. I mean sure, the transition from the chanter to the full pipes and drones had some bumps, but the last 6 months have turned him from a guy who owns a set of pipes to a piper. Because truly, when you’ve got those two songs under your sporran, you are a piper. There’s no denying it anymore. And soon enough, he’ll be able to play La Boum.

I might be projecting here a bit. He says that it’s challenging music. But a piper pipes, so soon enough, right? And I’m never going to pass up an opportunity to share that Music Show Scotland clip of my favourite pipe music. Sorrynotsorry.

For my quarantine-grounded endeavours, I overhauled a garden overrun with mint and thyme. In it’s former unkempt gardenly wild, it was good for the bees that buzzed around the flowers in the late summer, but it wasn’t as endearing to humans. Now, it’s good for both pollinators and humans, alive with hostas and Rudibeckia, bee balm, lemon balm, rose campion, asters (or possibly chamomile, which are mostly the same), some day lilies, blanket flower, spurge, sedum, coreopsis, chives and one proud milkweed. There’s a glorious green ceramic frog beside a solar garden spike. There’s a birdbath on the ground and a raised shallow bee bath that’s shallow enough for the pollinators to drink and not fall into the water and drown.I watch them, creeping as close as I dare to watch them. I created a garden nook with shady little garden that will fill in with Lily of the Valley that came from my grandfather’s house. I moved and properly buried some irises that were crowded and had pushed themselves out of the ground.  A gardener gardens. 

And – who woulda guessed – a writer writes. Except I haven’t done so much writing through the spring and into the summer. I mean, I’m a writer all day at $dayjob, so I don’t really have to give back my union card because my non-work hours haven’t included the spinning of tales. But I might be put on writer probation, and no one wants that, either.

If an artist’s brushes are dry, it’s because the artist is not painting. If they are not painting, they are not making art. And the thing that defines an artist is, well, art. I fancy myself a writer, so I’d best make with the writing, right?

Yes. It’s time It’s time to come back to Jesus and get back to the Chronicles. I mean, I know why I slowed down – it seemed somewhere between trite and disrespectful to be musing aloud about random things when the world was going off the rails. And while I’m pretty sure we’re still  up on two wheels headed around a corner, stories and humour and perspective are a good thing. So, back to it then.

Saddle up, kids, we write at dawn*. *Uh…sunrise drafts not guaranteed.

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