I’m Celia Smith, of Toronto. You may not have met me before, but you’ll find my story in
The Drawing Lesson, the first in the Trilogy of Remembrance.
What kind of truth? Hopefully, a healing one. It’s about how a muse can affect not just your art, but every aspect of your entire life for better or for worse. It’s not just about finding inspiration for creating “things”. It’s about inspiration for creating yourself and your life.
People usually think of muses as feminine, but mine was definitely male! This is a statue of Apollo who represents my muse, Alexander Wainwright.
This is the one truth I learned from him, the landscape painter, during the drawing lesson he gave me.
A muse can be dangerous!
Almost immediately, I realized he was my muse and much more. That relationship can sometimes be mistaken for pure and simple love but—it is far more complicated than that. He changed every aspect of my life.
Margaret Smith was my mother—a mother who stole my life—and taught me to live in subservience to her. How could anyone do that to her own child? Sadly, she found it remarkably easy. As you can see from the photographs, we lived in a very expensive part of the city called Rosedale. The sale of this property would have netted a very sizeable sum!
Many hours were spent on the verandah sadly–arguing fiercely! How we argued that day she died! Both of us were shocked at the depth of our fury. How sad to be surrounded by such luxury in the midst of such poverty of love and kindness!
I had nursed her for a number of years when she was crippled up with arthritis. On the day she died, I confess that I did something which she saw as unforgivable. I threatened to sell her house and put her in a nursing home.
Her death was sudden but not unexpected. I was desperate to make contact with a world of experience, which she had denied me. I lied and told the lawyer that mother wanted to sell the house. That way I could put her in a home. I came home and told her what I’d done. Then she died.
Everyone said after Mother’s death—take some time off, Celia, Go on a holiday You’ve been a good daughter and so, now, think of yourself. How little did they know!
And so I did. I spent several days at the INN just north of Toronto. A quiet place—or so I thought. I did not expect to meet several men, both of whom seemed quite attractive. I was pleased to know I could experience such feelings.
I work at the Art Gallery as a copy editor where I help prepare the catalogues. There is real satisfaction in the discipline of fitting the facts of an artist’s life into the allotted space. It’s a sort of making sense of a messy life by cutting and pasting no more than the one thousand allotted characters.
Of course, no real human life can or should be forced into such an artificial balance as the type space demands. Rather like Mother—cut and paste! Make yourself fit in to the expectations.
Those sculptures below look like I sometimes feel– lifeless and frozen in time. Although I tried to ignore them, those feelings overcame me and I was desperate to free myself.
I believe with all my heart that art takes you out of yourself and into another person’s world. Some might say my interest in art showed my desperation to escape Mother’s prison.
At the INN, Alexander Wainwright, a landscape painter from London, was the second man I met. He made me feel in ways I’d never felt before. I think you might call him my muse—and more –a great deal more. This is the INN, below.
I surprised myself—a painfully introverted soul. Normally, I do not strike up conversations with strangers. But this time I did, even though he clearly did not want the interruption. After we chatted for some moments, he agreed to give me a drawing lesson.
When I told him I had painted still life, he laughed.
“Ah yes! All those drawings of pretty flowers and bowls and little jam pots.”
“What’s wrong with that?” I asked.
He began to say some very strange and confusing things which caused some unfamiliar emotions.
He said, “To me, still life always seems an odd term. Life, if lived, is rarely still.” Then, he asked, “Have they spoken about reaching deep inside yourself?”
“What do you mean?” I asked. As if by magic, he pulled out a sketch book and charcoal sticks from his sack.
“Shall we begin the drawing lesson?” Holding out the charcoal, he smiled. “Let’s see what you can do.”
Although I was awkward and nervous in his presence, I did my best at sketching the trees and meadow. After five minutes, I tossed down the charcoal and cried out, “The laneway! The perspective’s all wrong. The trees look like deformed creatures.”
He shook his head. “Those are technical problems, my dear, which are easily solved with a little practice.” He led me back to the stool and continued, “But there is a more fundamental problem which needs to be addressed.”
“You see, the work is really not so bad. There are a few technical flaws, but the real problem is you.”
“Me? I don’t understand…”
“I’ve watched you drawing. You stood there like a schoolgirl hoping to please the teacher. Am I doing this right? Do you like this—and worse still—do you like me? Such questions in your mind and spirit cramp your hand. Unless you can silence those voices, you will not be able to draw.” Folding his arms across his chest, he drew on his pipe. “Surely, you must experience some passion, some life of your own without regard to the opinions of others? Undoubtedly, you’ve experienced much in life, but have emotion and feeling enriched those experiences?”
When he spoke those words, images of Mother flew into my mind. Of course, Mother demanded I try to please. What else could I do? Only then did I begin to understand the power of Mother’s influence.
“Who has done this to you, my child—schools, parenting?”
I burst into tears. “Mother!”
“Ah…I see.” Gently he cupped my chin and looked into my eyes. From his breast pocket, he took his handkerchief and dabbed my cheeks. “She is no longer alive,” he said.
“How did you know that?”
“It’s in your eyes.”
I began to cry again. A flood gate was opening.
“Dear child! Why are you crying so? It’s not just Mother, is it?”
I was shocked to hear myself say, “No one has ever touched me like that. Not once.” Something unknown was falling away. Something new was stirring within.
Of course, this is only a small part of the story. You can read the rest of it in The Drawing Lesson. But I hope I have shown you why I say—If a muse enters your life, beware. He will change it for good or for ill.
Do I sound like a foolish school girl? No, it’s true! Alexander Wainwright entered my life and set me free!
These blog posts are snippets from The Trilogy of Remembrance and are designed as appetizers to enjoy before the meal. Hopefully they will entice you to purchase one of the books. Each one in the trilogy is “standalone”. They are available almost anywhere online but the carousels below take you to my page on Amazon encasing all my novels.
Mary E. Martin is the author of two trilogies: The Osgoode Trilogy, inspired by her many years of law practice; and The Trilogy of Remembrance, set in the glitter and shadows of the art world. Both Trilogies will elevate the reader from the rush and hectic world of today and spin them into realms of yet unimagined intrigue. Be inspired by the newly released and final installment of The Trilogy of Remembrance, Night Crossing. Presently, The Drawing Lesson is a Wattpad Featured novel which you can read in it’s entirety right here Wattpad.com