Twenty-two years ago, for Christmas, I got this:

You can see it hasn’t been used. I’ve been doing little watercolor painting/drawings and last night I thought, “It’s time.”

Whether I’m actively making art or not, I think of art supplies as “real wealth.” That’s an idea I got from Alan Watts during an ethics class in college. He made the distinction between symbolic and real wealth. Real wealth is things you have and can use. They don’t lose value. Symbolic wealth (money), on the other hand, is tied to purchasing power and CAN lose value. Of the two, Watts insisted, REAL wealth is more important. It was his argument against debt and in favor of frugality and minimalism.

When I got my Christmas present from my Swiss family ($200 CHF) my friend and I walked down to Jelmoli, a beautiful department store then in Glattzentrum in Wallisellen, a suburb of Zürich, where they lived, and bought this set of pencils.

It was too precious and too beautiful to dip into. That’s kind of absurd because I’ve been using and re-stocking a 40 pencil set for nearly 30 years. It’s real pencils and no different from what I’ve been using, but all this time it’s represented magical potential.

Anyway, I’m going to start using them on the little consequenceless watercolors I’m doing.

26 thoughts on “Color

  1. You have a gift that I do not have, drawing and painting. Mr. Swiss is also quite good. I love your paintings very much. And of course a wonderful set of Aquarelle pencils (of course , they are Swiss).

  2. Wow! You have no idea how much Alan Watts’ comment about symbolic vs. real wealth plays into a struggle I’ve been working through over the last several months! There are other factors at play, of course, but that idea could be the key to a solid decision! Thank you!!!

      • Rightfully so! I think I’ve internalized the distinction between cost and value, but had not thought of cost as symbolic Unfortunately, the other factors are unknowns, and that complicates matters, but you’ve added a new focus to my thoughts!

        • I think for Watts, cost is symbolic because it fluctuates but wealth, like my pencils, might wear down but will always be what it is. And it’s only 2 or 3 bucks to replace a pencil AND they a super concentrated watercolors so there’s value. 🙂

  3. I do the same with certain of my yarns, like the mohair etc. Silly really..but I like how you put it “magical potential”

  4. I do the same thing, Martha. Treasure something meant to be used too much to use it. Trying to get better at it because I can’t take them with me. Can’t wait to see what you create with your colors!

    • I’ve started using them, Shannon. Two pieces so far. It’s really different having 80 colors to work with. I even love the names on the pencils (ochre lumiere ❤ ) When I paint with oils I mix everything myself, so this is a new challenge, too. I'm glad I waited to open these to use. This was the exact right time!

      • Did you already share one? It seemed familiar like I had seen one already? Not doing a very good job of keeping up these days. I always loved oil pastels, using my fingers to smear the color across the paper and pencils for the soft sound it made while shading in. Paying attention to detail, I suppose. 🙂

        • The of the freezing river (yesterday) is the first one. I posted it here and on FB. I did one today of crabapples. It’s on Facebook.

          I am not doing well keeping up, either. I got Nordic skis, I’ve been writing about China and drawing/painting. I just read your “Sound of Snow.” I loved it.

  5. I love your drawing – it fits you (and me) perfectly. I also love “real wealth”. My art, writing, dogs, nature, and family give a wealth that money could never buy. What a special and meaningful article, Martha!

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