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Starry, starry night

April 9, 2023

What a day yesterday!

It was Week 6 of watercolours and the main object of yesterday’s lesson was masking. There is a ready made masking fluid you can buy (or you can make your own) which, when applied to blank paper, means paint will not attach and, when rubbed off, leaves you with plain white underneath.

For the purposes of the demonstration the subject was a night sky.

First step: use a coin to draw a moon. It can be a full moon or, by simply shifting the coin over a bit, a crescent moon. I went for the latter.

Hardly any point in taking a picture of that, but here you go.

Then, use well-soaped fine brush to fill in the moon.

A toothpick to create shooting stars. Then dip a toothbrush in the masking fluid and flick it with your finger on to the paper. (I’ve had to adjust the contrast to make the masking fluid visible. On the actual paper you could barely see it.)

Then wet the paper and on goes the sky.

Pretty cool, eh?

Then, as if you’re on the ground looking up, add trees. Oh, so easy to do when you’re watching the instructor. So much harder – and less satisfying to look at – when you do them yourself. 

Once your trees are done (no matter how skinny and stupid they look), use and eraser (or special sponge if you’ve got one) to erase the masking fluid and, voila, a starry, starry night. 

Then touch up your trees where there are stars on them. I didn’t have time to do this completely before I had to leave. “No problem,” said the instructor, “you can do that at home.” Yeah, like that’s going to happen. For one thing, I have nowhere to paint at home. (Although I am considering buying a folding table to set up downstairs.)

Interesting discovery: The trees don’t look as stupid if you crop the image.

The last time I took this course, we did a small, postcard size version of this as an add on to another lesson that had gone quickly. I can’t remember if there were any trees in that version and can’t check, because I no longer have it. When my friend Catherine visited after I’d done the course, she liked that little painting so much I sent it to her as a Christmas present that year.

The reason I had to leave before I could finish painting out the stars in the crappy trees was I had somewhere else to be.

My friend Scott and I had signed up to do a jive dance workshop, offered as part of the annual arts festival. 

Turned out to be very popular: twenty-four people and I was the only one wearing a mask. At least they opened the windows and doors after a while.

For those who don’t know (which until yesterday included me), there are four basic steps. For the “follower” these are: step on your right foot, step on your left foot, move your right foot slightly behind you and step on the ball of your foot, step on your left foot. Or otherwise: step, step, back, step. 

We were separated into two lines and told to take turns practising these basic steps with different partners. Some attempts went better than others. Certainly my ability to remember the steps improved when I put a bit of swing (which you’re supposed to do) into the back step. 

The instructor guaranteed that if we spent five minutes in front of a mirror every day for two weeks, these steps would become imprinted on our brains and in our bodies. Hmm. Maybe.

After basic steps, on to twirls. Great fun if you didn’t end up on the wrong foot with your count completely fucked up. Then a move the name of which, if it was ever given, I’ve forgotten, which basically involves partners circling around each other. This one had Scott and me so stumped that the instructor’s assistant took pity on us and led us into another room for some one-on-one. We did master it – just about – and did indeed jive dancing with multiple moves before the end of the two hour class. Hurrah.

The instructor’s assistant assured us that we’d get it completely if we had another go for five minutes when we got home. Well, “home” is two different places, but as it happened Scott was indeed coming here last night for dinner and a movie. So, after he arrived and before I started the stir fry, we put on some music and had a go. Oh, dear. A complete muddle. Even when we tried using the squares of the kitchen tiles. 

Am I going to finish this and then practise on my own in front of the mirror for five minutes. Maybe. I could do with the exercise, if nothing else. 

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