Wednesday, November 12, 2008

moving again

Anne, first a thank you for your comment. I wish we were sitting together with our tea and our stories. I would like to hear yours.

We had lived next to the Bayshore Freeway for over a year when the idea cropped up in S.s mind that we should buy a house instead of wasting money on rent. We had listened to our elders who said housing would come down and we discovered that things were going up. (And I guess this year is the first time housing has gone down since then.) We found a house in North Burlingame and it was not the Taj Majal. Maybe it was because I was pregnant that the move was advisable. We found the house through a friend of S. It had three bedroom, it was on a corner lot, and it had a bus stop nearby. We paid 16.000 for it and our monthly payment was 66.66 which included insurance and I think some kind of tax. The people who sold it had built it when they were young and it was now time for them to retire. It was not exactly the best time for me to move, for I had been allowed to borrow a corner of a neighbors lot where I had planted a garden. The tomatoes were huge and plentiful when we left. Our neighbor said 'come back and harvest them as long as you like.'

On the North end of the living-room wall was the fire place. Centered, with a window on either side. There was room to build book shelves on either side of the fireplace. I made draperies with an upholstered valance going the whole length of the wall. That made it look as though there had to be a painting covering the whole wall above the fireplace. I knew exactly what I wanted that painting to depict. and it had to be an oil painting. I searched many museums and libraries for a photo of what I wanted. It had to be a historical sight of a fleet of sailing ships. One day I was looking through a Swedish History book that I had brought from Sweden. And there was a perfect picture of the Vasa sailing out of the harbor, before it heeled over and sank. I had some oil-paints that were used for porcelain painting. I bought a piece of parchment paper to fit into that space and began with a pencil drawing in all the details. I was lying on my knees on the floor doing this. And then, since I didn't know how to accomplish what I wanted, I took a wide flat brush, a brush a house painter would have been proud of, and in wide swathes covered the parchment paper with a wash of sepia colored terpentine. It worked swell as an eraser for every line I had drawn disappeared.

So I enrolled in the Junior College in San Mateo. I visited the art class once and found out what kind of material I had to use. Then I went to the hardware store and ordered a piece of masonite the correct size and to the art store for two tubes of paint, a large white and a small burnt umber. And so began the painting again. I had to put the masonite on the mantle place and stand on a step stool to do the painting. It took so long that our baby son was teething when I was working on my masterpiece and the way to keep him quiet was to hold him in one arm while I was painting with the other.


Anonymous said...


K & I visited the Vasa Museum in Stockholm last year when we were there. Another path our lives have crossed - your painting is beautiful and I recognize a few other things in the background of your painting as well. Do you still have the painting in your home? I have some beautiful postcards of the Museum as it is so dark in order to protect the wood of the ship that the lights are not really proper for photos - too dark. It was an amazing adventure for us that day and to think that it only sailed for about 20 mins. Does your son like this photo today? Take care.

M & K

Barbara said...

Is that the painting YOU did? It's gorgeous!

Joanna said...

Ditto what Barbara said regarding the gorgeous painting!

Lisa said...

I also visited the incredible Vasa museum a few months ago - what a grand subject for a huge painting!

MWill said...

You're such a talented artist and writer! It's clear where your grand daughter gets her skills from. I hope you continue to post. Your stories so brighten my day.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is WOW! You are a very strong willed 'can do' person and I admire you. I love your stories! Thank you!

Barbara said...

One of these days, please let us see a photo of you as you are today. I know you will look beautiful to us. PLEASE!!!!!!!

kin said...

Hi Svensto,
I have been following your wonderful story from the beginning, but have not commented until now. I am an art student at a university in southern ontario, and have so far loved all the examples of your artwork. do you still find the time to paint now?

also - i find it interesting that you were painting with turpentine and oil colours while your pregnant! today people are not supposed to use anything but watercolours when pregnant (and even certain gues are considered unsafe). the image of you painting with one hand and holding your baby with the other would make many people cringe today, but who knew! and your children were obviously not affected by your art.

in any case, i am loving your blog, your honesty and your incredible memory! thank you for investing so much time into this, you are creating such a treaure. :)

- heather

kin said...

*hues, that was supposed to say!