A painter can be as garrulous in his own medium as the proverbial fishwife in hers, and just as tiresome. He often is, complicating what might otherwise be a plain statement with such irrelevancies as details, colours, accidental appearances, and other things that don't matter.
Like a story that is worthy to be told, a picture must have a theme, and a climax, and the manner of educing it must be straightforward. Diffuseness, circumlocution, circumstantiality, ambiguity —all the faults that obscure the points of a story badly told, are apparent also in a poor painting. Simplicity is a quality common to all great works of art; I do not mean the 'very suspicious virtue' derided by Reynolds, but the kind of simplicity born of honesty and single-mindedness.
I have landscape in mind particularly. The large majority of landscape painters are mere copyists of nature; they are not artists. They can never, in the words of Reynolds, 'produce anything great, can never raise or enlarge the conceptions, or warm the heart of the spectator.' That has always been true in art. Proclus, the Greek mystic knew it; Cicero expressed the same conviction. Old John Varley put it tersely: 'Nature needs cooking,' he said.
Ideal form as opposed to nature is the text upon which Reynolds based his Fifteen Discourses. Well turned phrases reiterate the thought throughout. He refers frequently to the 'intellectual dignity that ennobles the painter's art;' to 'industry not of the hands but of the mind.' He said, 'the usual and most dangerous error is on the side of minuteness' and that 'Art is no imitation at all of external nature.' Here is one paragraph that should be framed and hung in every studio:
'So far is my disquisition from giving countenance to idleness, that there is nothing in our art which enforces such continual exertion and circumspection, as an attention to the general effect of the whole. It requires much study and much practice; it requires the painter's entire mind; whereas the parts may be finishing by nice touches, while his mind is engaged on other matters; he may even hear a play or a novel read without much disturbance. The artist who flatters his own indolence will continually find himself evading this active exertion and applying his thoughts to the ease and laziness of highly finishing the parts; producing at last what Cowley calls 'labourious effect of idleness.'
Nothing dismays one more than to see a student meticulously placing each leaf on a tree, and each blade of grass in a meadow, wielding a small sable brush, and with his nose touching his drawing.
Yet that is how some landscapes are painted — piecemeal, without thought. Euclid asserted that the whole is greater than its part. As a schoolboy I thought the axiom redundant and gibed at memorising it, but as a teacher I discovered that Euclid knew what he was about; the axiom may be self-evident, but is not necessarily self-taught.
It is no easy matter to decide what to include and what to leave out in a picture, especially when confronting nature. The experienced paysagist often finds it best to paint in the studio, working from perhaps a rapid colour note and a series of careful drawings which have been kept till time has erased from his mind all the irrelevant minutiae associated with the subject in nature.
On the other hand, among the best examples of nucleated graphic expression are the outdoor sketches of Peter de Wint and John Sell Cotman. No artist, asserted A.W. Rich, ever came nearer painting a perfect picture than did Peter de Wint. Should the student of Landscape study this artist's work closely and read Reynold's Discourses there is no doubt he will profit himself.
27. Water Colour vs Oil
The widely accepted theory that water-colours are more perishable than oils is a mistaken one. Durer's water-colours have lasted better than his oils. If a painting has been done with the best materials and with a proved technique, no matter what the medium, sealed in a frame, and kept out of direct sunlight, nothing much can happen to it. But slight lapses in technique or preparation are far more disastrous in the oil medium.
Valuable oil paintings are often framed under glass. Some galleries have reported that the glazes which gave life and colour to certain pictures fled from the canvas and adhered to the glass. Oil paintings become disfigured with cracks in the course of time —sometimes within two years. They become caked with dust and grime; the canvas rots; the wood — if they are painted on wood — warps and cracks; the beaverboard buckles; mistakes which the artist thought he had buried under a thick layer of paint, come to the surface. If the air is tainted with factory fumes, certain pigments are attacked and change their hue.
In the days of Sir Joshua Reynolds bitumen was a favoured pigment. It is a transparent brown derived from pitch. Sir Joshua used a lot of it. Not long ago a portrait by that master was cleaned and put in the sun to dry. The gallery technician nearly had a fit when he went to take it in. The eyes had run down the cheeks to the corners of the mouth. Bitumen also causes unsightly cracks. No, the picture was not ruined; it was turned the other way up and the eyes ran back.
I use the water-colour medium, I think, partly because of its difficulty — it keeps me interested, and partly for its brilliance, for I love colour. It has been called 'a breakfast of sunshine.' It has been called all kinds of things. Joseph Wright described it as an amusement for young ladies. But we don't take that too seriously. Michelangelo said much the same of oil-painting ('Oil is a medium fit only for women') Wright's slanderous estimate originated in the fact that virtually all the masters of the English Schools of his day, were forced to teach for a living. Cotman, de Wint, Cox, Cozens, Varley, all of them took pupils, mostly young ladies of leisure.
Water-colour was known as 'the gentle art,' and in spite of its beauty and advantages, was commonly thought to be inferior. Some of this century—old prejudice still sticks, and though most modern young women prefer to use oil, many big strong [men] specialize in aquarelle. The fact is water-colour is a very difficult art, requiring more concentration and sustained effort than oil. Turner loved water-colour, but during the last five or six years of his life, he had not the strength to use its though he still used his oil paints. David Cox had his first lessons in oil when he was fifty-six, and he wrote, 'There is not half the trouble with oil as with water-colour. I should never touch water-colour again only for my honour and duty to the Society I belong to.'
Of course every medium has some peculiar beauty; that of. watercolour is transparency and beauty of colour. Kenyon Cox, in one of his fine lectures, made a comparison which I and you, no doubt, have made often. He said, 'On going into an exhibition of water-colours the first impression will be that the painters, good and bad, are all working in colour. On going into an exhibition of oils the first impression is apt to be that everyone is painting in mud or in chalk. In this one matter of beautiful and pure colour the watercolourists will maintain their advantage.'
Water~colours were first prepared by grinding pigments in waters in which gum Arabic had been dissolved, forming a paste that was pressed in a mould, and dried to form a hard cake. These are the most brilliant pigments obtainable, but they are provoking to use —they must be rubbed in water on a china palette. Nowadays manufacturers add glycerine to keep the pigment moist, and put it up in little porcelain pans, or in tubes made of tin-foil.
The brush used is commonly a sable. While an oil-painter may use fifty brushes at one sitting, the aquarellist rarely uses more than two — a large one and a small one that will come to a point. Watercolour paper is preferably white, and hand-made from linen rags. There is no reason why a water-colour drawing should not last hundreds of years if the best materials are used.
The secret of good technique in any medium involves one simple principle — that each brush-stroke shall lie absolutely undisturbed. It must be true in form, tone, and colours and it must be an integral part of the pictorial scheme. It may sound easy, but its consistent achievement is next to impossible.
Martin Hardie's tribute to that great watercolourist Peter de Wint is descriptive of his masterly technique — 'One of those who can make colour sing, one of the few who can keep his darks transparently luminous and sparkling. No other artist has ever set on paper with more meaning and more purpose that beautiful blot of untroubled colour from a full-flowing brush, which, as it dries out, transparent and rich in bloom, is the charm and essence of the water-colour art.'
De Wint's work was done on rough paper. He worked very directly, rarely overpainting, never washing down. He used a pen-knife for scraping out lights.
The modern vogue for water-colour began with the topographical drawings of the eighteenth century, which were produced largely for the use of the engravers. The subject was outlined with a reed pen, and tinted or stained with washes of colour. This technique is still used, by some.
Paul Sandby (1725-1799) is called the Father of English water-colour painting. He was followed by Samuel Prout (1783-1852) whose subjects were largely architectural — tumble-down cottages, and streets containing relics of by-gone days, which were considered picturesque at that time solely on account of their antiquity and were worked up from large pencil drawings made on the spot. He coloured his drawings at his convenience and elaborated them with a reed pen. He used brown ink the foreground, and blue for the distances a concession to tonal accuracy frequently used by living artists. He introduced figures because a deserted [landscape] is a pathetic sight, copying them from his sketch-book.
Girtin made the first big step in water-colour, abandoning line for tone, but Cotman, who was only seven years his junior, leaped so far forward that he was completely out of sight of his contemporaries, and only within the last thirty years has his work been estimated at its true worth. Cotman's handling is as distinguished as his composition. He is the student's authority for sponging, scraping and paste-painting.
Scraping with a sharp knife or a razor is not necessarily restricted to the removal of dry pigment, or to the representation of high lights. Some of Cotman's drawings sparkle with widely distributed scrapes — a whole sky in one case, and sometimes more. The knife is a legitimate part of the water-colourist's equipment. Nothing else will give vitality to a dull and woolly drawing more readily, or will suggest an effulgence of light such as the sheen of the sun on water.
The mixture of paste with water-colour retards its drying and thus makes its manipulation easier. It also gives it the appearance of solidity usually associated with the oil medium, without the sacrifice of transparence. It is astonishing that the paste method is not more popular.
Turner used any method at all that would serve his immediate purpose. He made a larger use of wet paper painting than any of his contemporaries. Many of his water-colours are carried nearly to completion upon wet paper, the colours melting one into the other, manipulated in a manner possible only on paper in that condition. He frequently had three water-colours on hand at once, when working from sketches in his studio. He outlined the main features of the composition, immersed the drawing in water contained in a bucket conveniently placed near his chair, and immediately carried the painting as far as he could. When the paper began to dry he laid it aside and started on another, resoaking the first when the other required time out.
David Cox had no use for a pen. He made a preliminary drawing in pencil and in the process of painting would draw also with the point of his brush. His method was that of building up tones with a constant repetition of touches, until the correct intensity and variation were reached. He was a great teacher and recommended the use of a large brush. Don't spare the colour, he said, use plenty of colour and dab at it.
In this thumb-nail summary we have covered the main types of watercolour technique in use to-day. There are many other techniques: one I use frequently involves a pale underpainting in charcoal, well rubbed in, and treated with fixative. The majority of modern teachers recommend the method of de Wint. A.W. Rich's valuable text-book embodies examples made after the manner of that master, each part finished as the painter proceeds, as though he worked in mosaic. I also employ that ..technique, not only on account of its clarity and beauty but because it is the one best suited to the dry air of the Canadian interior.
F. Hopkinson Smith, an American water-colour painter and novelist, published a book of lectures on painting in which he complained that the English masters allowed themselves too little freedom in their methods. He contended that the painter should do as he pleased, 'working in anything and all things .... so long as he gets there, handling body-colour, in a veil of silver-gray as an overwash, or squeezed in chunks from a tube; undertones of pastel — anything for quality.' Smith's pet method was to make a finished drawing in charcoal on tinted papers and to go over the shadows with transparent colours and over the lights with opaque colour. By this means he claimed to render the weight and solidity of form in nature, which, he said, 'the staining of paper with washes of transparent colour does not, and cannot, give.'
A more recent textbook written by the late president of the American Water-colour Society, George Pearse Ennis, reverts to the de Wint tradition, He uses a very rough, heavy paper, which he does not stretch, and very large brushes. He begins with an outline in pencil, paints in his darks first and his lights last. His palette is a brilliant one — three reds, three blues, two yellows, and Hooker's green. The earth colours which Hopkinson Smith flushed over his charcoal grounds are discarded as being too dull. Anything else that might defile the brilliance of
of the applied pigment is discarded also — over-painting, or mixing on the palette instead of on the paper, or scrubbing or sponging (save for complete obliteration).
Gouache, or body-colour is an opaque process of water-colour, in which tones or shades are produced by the admixture of more or less Chinese white. Thus the medium is deprived of its most beautiful characteristic, transparence, and in this the artist is always regarded as heterodox, particularly if he combines transparent and opaque methods in one picture. However, one is often tempted to associate the two. A little white mixed enables the painter to represent details that are brighter and higher in tone than their surroundings. David Cox taught that the use of body-colour is illegitimate, yet he never hesitated to use it when he found occasion. The paper that bears his name — it was originally used for wrapping sugar and was known as sugar paper —comes in shades varying between warm gray and brown. No conceivable wash of transparent colour could make this paper resemble, for examples snow and ice. Opaque colour must be used in such circumstances, but on white paper I cannot see the necessity for opaque painting.
Burne Jones painted his 'Love among the Ruins' in gouache and sent it to Paris for exhibition. An attendant at the gallery thought it looked a trifle dusty, and, never having seen a gouache painting before he rubbed it over with a wet sponge. Imagine his dismay when the paint came off. Burne-Jones was obliged to repaint the picture, but this time in oil!
Practically all the more satisfying landscapes of the past were painted indoors. For years, whilst I was learning to use my eyes and my brush, I finished pictures on the spot in full colour. No doubt my design was atrocious and I am sure I introduced all kinds of detail that looked beautiful at the time, but only served to complicate, even to destroy that particular aspect of beauty I sat down to express. This method is unnecessarily difficult: drawing, tone, colour, texture, design — all these principles must be considered with every stroke of the brush.
Then the time involved is too long. In four hours the sun has travelled a great way; the first effect has gone forever; the shadows have changed; the scene is entirely different If one works for an hour with the idea of going back to it the next day, one is again disappointed, for no two days are the same. The method that suits me best now, is to make small, quick, sketches in colour, so that I can capture an effect in nature before it passes, and I leave the drawing to be done at another time if necessary or from memory.
The drawing is really very important to my mind. Annibale Carracci, a great teacher of the late Renaissance, told his pupils that if they had a good outline, they would have a good picture no matter what they put inside it.
It is the fashion nowadays to invent form and schemes of colour, but none of it compares
in variety and interest with the forms and patterns of nature. Henri Matisse, a leader among modernists, derives many of his colour schemes from the two hundred birds he keeps in his studio. His favourite is a toucan which rides on his as shoulder. Van Gogh confessed that he always started by keeping as close to the hues of nature as possible.
28. Parson Painters
At intervals parsons have joined my class, and I have found them to be distinct acquisitions, good-humoured and keen to learn. I recall that one of them, laden with his equipment, climbed high along a game trail above Third Lake to make a sketch of Mount Edith. The first thing he did on arrival was to kick over his pail of water. He was prone to accidents of this kind, and had invented an expletive that had no questionable connotations, but did relieve his feelings.
There is a Society of Parson Painters in England. It holds regular exhibitions. I made a note of a paragraph from the foreword to an old catalogue, written by the Rev J. H. Humphries, 'It is imperative' he asserted, 'that the clergy should know something about the fundamental principles of art; a parson who can compose a picture has at his disposal sufficient knowledge to initiate the furnishing and decorating of a church. The principles which govern good composition apply to paintings and churches alike.'
The same argument might be used in favour of the study of art by housewives, who have homes to beautify, or by stenographers who have letters to write, or by almost anyone interested in some manual occupation, but I have no quarrel with it; I am all for a better understanding of art.
Though why an apologetic attitude should be assumed by the student, even if he is a parson, I don't know. I mean I do not think it is necessary. There was a time, of course, when the profession of art was considered a trifle naughty, and even the staidest of painters liked to be thought feckless like a character from the pages of 'Trilby.' Then the layman has not yet quite forgiven the artist's harmless and necessary association with the nude figure, whether from motives of prudery or envy. Perhaps to a divine of an age to remember this aspect of the matter such sort of apology or explanation would appear necessary. Later generations have a broader outlook.
I am reminded of Fra Angelico, a parson-painter of the past, whose nature never once belied his name, whose painting gave evidence of piety and devotion, as well as ability. It was the custom, wrote Vasari, in a passage that I love, of the artist to abstain from retouching or improving any painting when finished. He altered nothing but left all as it was done the first time, believing, he said, that such was the will of God. It is also affirmed that he would never take the pencil in hand until he had first offered a prayer. He is said never to have painted a crucifix without tears streaming from his eyes, and in the countenances and attitudes of his figures it is easy to perceive proof of his sincerity, his goodness and the depth of his devotion to the religion of Christ.
Fra Angelica was not a parish priest with multifarious duties; he was a monk who seems to have given up most of his time to evangelistic painting, though he cannot have neglected his religious duties, since he was offered the archbishopric of Florence by the Pope. Many of his patrons were private individuals; he would accept any commission provided his superior approved.
Matthew William Peters was a parson and a fine painter who attained the distinction of election to the Royal Academy towards the end of the eighteenth century. It is said that he took holy orders rather than endure such poverty as the landscape painter Wilson suffered.
The catalogue seems to indicate that the parson who painted at that time did so for relaxation and amusement. Art was his hobby. Thus landscapes predominated: the President, the Dean of Westminster, exhibited several. But figure-painting was not neglected, nor portraiture, nor imaginative composition. On the whole the parsons' exhibition bore the characteristics of the average society show; similar subjects were treated with similar skill. That it represented spare-time effort is not unusual either, for many exhibiting painters labour under the same restrictions, being teachers, or writers, clerks or architects, even policemen or postmen during the week, and artists only on Saturdays. But it is both interesting and significant that the practice of art is indulged by the parson. For his own sake it is an admirable practice; and for the sake of art does it not indicate that the profession had resumed the habiliments of respectability?
29. Surprise an element of Beauty
Surprise is an essential element of beauty; it is a sublimation of the element of contrast, without which beauty would be non-existent; like the desert that blossoms as the rose, or claims attention by its improbability and incongruence and inspires the sensation of excitement.
The surrealist theory is based on irrelevancy carried to the extreme of unreason. The desert does indeed blossom, briefly perhaps and at long intervals, but the Cheshire Cat, the Jabberwock, and the dapper White Rabbit which are freely quoted in justification of surrealism, are the stuff that dreams are made of — the essence of unreality. There is no reason why this school of painting should not produce works imbued with charm comparable with the masterpieces of Carroll and Lear; unfortunately, as a school, it lacks the saving grace of humour, and strives to shock rather than surprise, in a spirit of deadly dejection.
The discovery of a boss of moss campion high on a mountainside is as thrilling an experience as finding a diamond in a mass of gravel after washing and sorting monotonously for weeks. I liked the flower best: it was so unexpected. It shone — a pink and violet convexity close to the ground, close up to the snow, and far above the trees and other vegetation, a bright jewel in a drab setting. How it shone! No need to drag weary limbs above the scree to get nearer—we raced up, weariness forgotten.
So it is often with the wild flower; it appears unexpectedly, a magic inflorescence. The Prairie 'crocus' lifts its purple head through the stubble, even through the snow; the mamalaria burgeons in a waste of sun-bleached grass.
What poor and shabby things they seem in a garden. Transplanted, they lose the precious quality of wilding, of splendid isolation. In a garden of course mass is the unity and the arrangement of masses is the source of beauty; but in nature the unit is often the flower, the single plant, or tree.
This thought is aptly applied to the display of pictures. In this day and age pictures are not given a chance. They are hung close together, and they are mutually destructive. It is in the house that the worst sins are committed. There pictures are hung, and there they stay, as long as the house lasts, day by day becoming more contemptible through familiarity and soon deprived of the freshness and originality which constituted their first appeal.. They become as unattractive and as useless as an old shoe, and the only grace that remains is their colour which, presumably, helps to make the room as a whole agreeable. Far better to give them away whilst they still retain some shred of enchantment, and substitute others — the old ones will wear best in memory; or to put them away for a while, making a practice of displaying only a few of one's pictures at any one time.
I first appreciated the importance with which a single work of art may be endowed by its surroundings, in my youth in Salisbury. That is an ancient city, much of it built of dressed stone retrieved from the ruins of Old Sarum, which was demolished early in the thirteenth century. Many of these blocks of stone were carved; the walls of The Close are embellished with occasional rosettes, though without intention for they were set by the masons as they came.
The Club to which I belonged had also risen from the debris of Old Sarum. In the bar, halfway up the wall was a head carved in nearly full relief. It was extraordinary, being where it was, so useless and unexplained. It had once been a bracket supporting a small round arch in the old castle on the hill. Now it merely juts from an alien wall fortuitously looking down upon men of the town who assembled at legal hours when they are thirsty. I for one often looked up at that ageless lady. As a matter of fact she fascinated me. Such beauty, such serenity, such a kindly and untroubled regard of the present from out of the distant past.
No doubt at all the beauty of this sculptured head was enhanced by contrast. Its irrelevancy in respect to the time and place suggested the phantasmal. It was an intrusion, a fortunate intrusion.
One day 1 wandered down to the beach at Sointula, a remote settlement on the Pacific coast, and there among the abraded logs washed up by the sea, I observed with some excitement the torso and head of a woman, carved in wood. It was crudely wrought but possessed the charm peculiar to aboriginal sculpture — naivete, simplicity and exoticism.
It was not heavy, so I carried it along as far as my sister's house and proudly called attention to it. My sister was as excited as I but for another reason. 'Put it DOWN,' she said, 'Don't touch it.' She explained that it was as much as my life, or perhaps it was only my liberty, was worth, to be found with a native monument in my possession. I therefore put it back amongst the rubbish on the beach, but reluctantly, for I wanted to keep it.
Some time later we went for a cruise into Knight Inlet. Miles away from Sointula I saw my wooden lady again, her allurement still potent. She was afloat on the sea, and for the moment tangled in a mass of kelp. I thought I discerned a look of appeal in her eyes.
Time elapsed — a matter of weeks, and we anchored at Alert Bay. The wooden lady had already arrived or anticipated me. She lay on her back at the foot of the garden comfortably ensconced among great logs. I was convinced she had followed me. Such devotion could not be ignored. I took her in my arms and planted her among the strawberries. Quite apart from the strange appearances of this image, its appeal depended again upon incongruity. It was out of place.
30. More Rain
I stepped out of doors one morning with no hopeful thoughts regarding the weather, for I had lain in bed listening to the patter of rain on the roof. But the birds in the garden were twittering, even the pair of humming-birds which have spent the week poking their long noses into the pink blossoms on the salmon-berry bushes lifted up their little voices in what seemed to me sheer joy. They live here, I thought: they're used to it.
I do not dislike rain necessarily, if it is not too cold. Indeed, rain on the skin is a distinctly pleasant sensation. But, being an aquarellist, in the midst, moreover of a sketching trip, I could
not regard rain as an asset, although it was more liquid than some, particularly at this juncture, having exhausted all the sheltered nooks along the water-front, which provide at once a picturesque outlook and adequate protection against those lachrymose skies.
On the first wet day I called at the bakery and bought a cigar.
'That's a nice view from the window,' I said tactfully, knowing it was not nearly so good as the one in his sitting-room, 'I'd like to paint it.'
'Pretty fair,' he said, politely craning his neck to look at it, as though he had never as en it before, 'But come in here and I'll show you a better one.'
So I made a sketch of Holman's wharf, while the clouds trailed across the mountains of Nimkish. This, I should explain, was Alert Bay, on the Pacific coast.
Another day I sat under the projecting roof of Wong's float-house and made a sketch of May's wharf. Another view of the same wharf resulted during another rain storm when I took refuge in the house of a Norwegian while it lasted. This gnarled Norwegian was a boat builder. He was finishing the interior of a troller, which filled the sheds and towered ten feet above me as I cowered under the stern. Every half-hour or so he would climb down and engage me in conversation.
His topic might be the British Israelite theory in which he was an earnest believer, or ethnology, which under his direction was a wildly mysterious science, or it might be his native land to which his mind wanders now that he is ageing. He was a genial fellow, with the moustache of a Viking, and spectacles which he converted into bifocals by the simple expedient of wearing them well down on his nose, so that he could glance through them for close work, and avoid them altogether when more distant objects called for his attention. I hoped he would soon get back to Norway.
The Japanese barber shop looked promising. I might have entered and simply asked to see the view but I hated to think of his disappointment should I have done so. Imagine him alone in his gaily painted float-house, crouching over the stove, for, of course, it was raining, reading for the tenth time the last copy of his Nipponese newspaper. He hears heavy footsteps on the planking connecting his float-house with dry land. 'Hiya!' he exclaims in Japanese, 'Here's an honourable customer.' He rises hurriedly and dons his clean white coat, for customers are rare except when fishermen foregather here.
Consequently, I asked for a hair-cut, but alas, there was no view.
The advantages of living in a float-house might well form the subject of an extended essay. For the present I am reminded of a damp session under a dripping cedar when I made a drawing of a remarkable floating village called Simoom, which is some twenty miles from Alert Bay. Simoom is linked with the shore by a long boom of logs — slippery and unstable I found them.
That morning, as I have remarked, I viewed the well-watered prospect with indignation. For once I lacked any plan whereby to cope with drenching clouds. I cannot sit inactively indoors, and read, or play solitaire, contentedly when I might be painting. The philosopher of course, retains his equanimity in any circumstances; this story goes to prove that he is right.
Had I been wiser I might have been pleasantly and profitably employed the whole day. We (that is, Bob and I) walked for the sake of air and some fillets of fish as far as the butchers, whose store is about a mile away. The store belongs to Jim King, an aged Chinaman who has prospered after many years of trading in Alert Bay. He owned a large general store and a picturesque wharf, which I have sketched many times, and he had then retired. But he still lived close by and as we walked back he called out to us. We turned to meet him. Addressing Bob, and pointing to me, he said,
'Him paint sign for shop?'
His old sign had been nearly blotted out by the weather as we well knew. He explained that he was contemplating a new one with a light under it. I have never yet painted a shop-sign, and, being a creature of habit, thoughtlessly declined.
The old man proffered me a job for a rainy days and I turned him down. He was sad about it, and I was miserable, being idle.