Earlier this month I had the privilege of attending the winter meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America for Eastern Pennsylvania. I only became aware of JASNA earlier this year and this was my first opportunity to participate in one of their meetings. It was an afternoon not to be missed!
The event was an opportunity to celebrate Jane Austen’s birthday by painting her portrait under the helpful tutoring of the patient teachers at Pinot’s Palette. Of course, fine food and drink were also included!
The portrait we were all supposed to be copying looked like this:
Now, I am not an artist. I have no artistic talent whatsoever. I am, in fact, pretty much the exact opposite of an artist, whatever that opposite may be. Do you understand what I’m saying? I can’t even draw a convincing stick figure.
This was supposed to be a man. No, really.
Nevertheless, I decided to tackle this challenge with the perseverance of Anne Elliott, the humor of Elizabeth Bennet, and the wishful self-delusions of Lady Catherine. (“I should have been a great proficient, if I had ever learned!”)
We painted the background first, a fairly easy procedure where we mixed red, white, and some other color and then painted from the upper top right down towards the opposite corner, blending as we went. That was the word of the day: “blend.” Blend this, blend that! Blend, my friend, blend! My canvas was quickly covered in shades of red and pink and it seemed like painting might be easier than I thought.
Then they announced it was time to outline Jane’s head.
Groans rose all around. Several women called for more glasses of wine, or what they affectionately called liquid courage. Not me. There’s not enough wine in the world to make me feel good about my ability to draw anything convincingly. Nevertheless, I drew the outline of Jane’s head. With some help from my neighbors on either side, it didn’t look too hideous. Kind of like Frankenstein with a toothache, but without the bolts in his forehead.
Next we outlined her eyes, then drew in her mouth and chin and tried to create a faint blush on her cheeks. Blend! Blend!!!!
Blending did not work well for me. Or for Jane.
Next came her hair and cap, and there poor Jane really suffered at my hands. The hair color was pretty good, thanks to the help offered by the woman on my right (Margaret C. Sullivan, whom I later discovered is a talented JAFF writer). The placement of the curls, etc., however, simply eluded me.
Finally we added on Jane’s cap and a book in her arms, and the portrait was done!
The room was filled with other Austen fans just like me, and all of us could laugh at our artistic shortcomings. While some people in the room showed definite talent, at least one woman was heard to comment, “Well, at least the trash is going out tomorrow!”
Here is my final result. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about my talent (or lack thereof).
I’ve titled this, “Jane Austen Returns From The Dentist”
This is unquestionably the best piece of artwork I’ve ever created 🙂 and it is now hanging in a place of pride and distinction in my home office. But I’m going back to writing where I belong!
Merry Christmas, and may your new year be filled with unexpected discoveries! See you then!