Finely aged paints

This is what happens when you put art on the back burner. I got this watercolor set for my 20th birthday. In 1977. Yeah, I’ll take a minute while you do the math. Scary, huh? My parents brought it, along with a memorably gigantic and fluffy coconut cake (still my favorite), up to my college that birthday weekend, and we—my parents and I and my then-boyfriend—took a picnic to the lake. I remember it being a beautiful day, almost hot, very windy. And I remember thinking, “Paints—cool! No, wait. I can’t paint.”

Never mind that I loved being trotted around to art supply stores on the weekends with our artist dad, and that my favorite toys were stubs of conté crayons and sample books from art paper companies (the word “Strathmore” still makes my heart beat faster). I was absolutely convinced I couldn’t paint. And, honestly, I was pretty pathetic at it. I made a lot of little daubs that looked marginally the way I thought watercolor paintings were supposed to look, but somewhere along the line the paint box got put in a drawer. Still, it somehow always seemed to get included whenever I packed for a move to a new town, a new state, a new apartment or house. I liked just knowing that the paints were there, in their neat little tin.

Honestly, I don’t think I’ve opened the box in 10 years. But one morning last week I suddenly knew exactly what I needed the watercolors for. Fortunately, I knew precisely where they were. I had to blow a little dust off the box (okay, a lot of dust), but all the lovely colors and two nice brushes were waiting for me when I opened the box.


Most of them were in pretty good shape. Medium yellow?

Meium yellow


Cobalt blue?

Cobalt blue


Burnt umber? A little crackly, but still ready for work.

Burnt umber

But then we come to . . . the Prussian Blue. This one looks less like a cake of watercolor and more like a Petri dish. Who knew paints could grow mold?

Prussian blue

I think what we’re dealing with here is Prussian Blue Cheese.


One response to “Finely aged paints

  1. “I liked just knowing that the paints were there, in their neat little tin.”
    I know exactly what you mean. I have several treasures like that – I don’t know when I’m going to use them, but just knowing they are there is very reassuring.
    Lovely blog.

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