January 7, 1917 Peer Pressure

January 7, 1917

It’s Sunday today and it seemed like everyone wanted to visit me this afternoon. I didn’t go to church in the morning. I assumed that nobody knew that I was back so I wouldn’t be missed at service. To be truthful, I don’t think I’m ever missed at a service because I don’t try to make a regular thing of it, or I go to different churches so I can offer the excuse that if I didn’t show up at one I could tell them I was at another. I’m always worried about being pulled into the congregational clutches because they are trying to save your soul, or to recruit you to save the souls of others. Even worse, once they find out you are unmarried, they wonder why you aren’t fighting in the war, or they try to throw an unmarried daughter at you and in most case not realizing there’s a good reason why she’s still an unmarried daughter.

First it was Curtis Williamson and Bill Beatty. They also dragged along under protest, Marion Long, another occupant of the Studio Building. I had met her briefly in late November when I just returned and she didn’t seem to be the type to mix with my sort. My bet that Curtis and Bill sensed this feeling and they wanted to have some fun ratcheting up a scene. I made and served tea, and I saw Marion blanch when I used a reasonably clean palette knife to serve up some biscuits. She didn’t have any biscuits. The topic of conversation around the Studio Building and at the Club was the upcoming Spring Exhibition.  The Hanging Committee needed a list of entries soon so they could make their selection.

“Tom, what about that one?” Bill pointed to my Jack Pine Canvas I had worked on just before Christmas.

“It’s not finished,” I said. “The paint’s gone too hard to scrape off”

“Well it looks finished to me!” Bill looked over the pile of sketches, “Is it that one you painted it from?”

“Yes. It’s from the one I painted on Little Cauchon Lake, near Achray. I was there with Lawren, in the spring, before he enlisted.”

“Tom, I like it! I’d never paint something like that, but whether it’s finished or not, nobody’ll know the difference. You should be able to ask $600 for it.”

“Sure, I can ask $600, but nobody’ll pay it. Hardwoods just came back from Montreal. It was $300 and it didn’t go.” I could see that Marion was being quiet, polite and ignoring the tea and biscuits I had given her.”

“What else you got, Tom? Say, this is nice! Seurat. You trying to do something like Seurat?” Bill was looking at my painting of pointer boats in a log-filled lake. Dr. MaCallum saw this one before Christmas and called it “Pageant of the North.”

“Bill, can you leave it?” I hated him pawing through my paintings and sketches. It made me feel like I was a flea market seller.

I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I telegraphed pretty plainly that I wanted to be left alone. I could tell they got the signal, and with the exception of Marion, they quickly finished their tea and biscuits and bid me a good afternoon.

Later on, Dr. MacCallum dropped by. Without so much as a word, he went through and pulled out a sketch, set it beside his bag beside the door and put $25 on the table. I figured the reason he didn’t say anything because since this was a Sunday transaction, there must be some loophole in the Bible that allows for Sunday money-changing, so long there are no words spoken during the transaction. Like a Sunday offering at church, I reckoned.

“Tom, that’s a fine painting.” He was referring to Jack Pine canvas.

I repeated my position from the earlier conversation, “It’s not done.”

“Okay, but finished or not, it’s a fine specimen. The square canvas, where did you get that idea from, Klimt?”

“I was looking through some issues of Ver Sacrum at the library. I got some decorative ideas from the prints.” I was fascinated by what I could learn from the Vienna Secessionist. When I was doing commercial art, I tried to emulate what they did, with great success, much to the surprise of my bosses and colleagues. I tried to carry this over to my canvases.

Dr. MacCallum changed the topic, “Tom, I have an invite for you for the member’s dinner on the 17th. Sampson is going to unveil his painting, Roy Mitchell has written a dedication play, and we’re going to be holding a mystery painter competition.”

“What’s a mystery painter competition?” I asked.

“You’d better come to find out. Here’s the invitation.” Dr. MacCallum set it on the table beside the cash and  gathered his hat, gloves, bag and newly-acquired sketch. “See you, Tom.”

By then, it was late afternoon. I made myself dinner, had a couple of drinks, read a good lot, and then went for a snowshoe in the Rosedale Ravine later in the evening. I went to the Governor’s Bridge Lookout. I could see the Brickworks. I could tell the kilns were on full fire. They don’t shut down for Sundays. A sign of progress, I guess.

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