Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Sepia ink

It's been in a dark and forgotten corner of the cupboard for years. A gift I always meant to use, but put away. Somehow too fancy for my everyday use. Looking too formal, too special, too expensive for my sketchbook scribblings all done on the hop and in a wonderful swoop before the hands of the clock reach the half hour. Impractical for that, when I have no time for letting things dry before I turn to a new page, no time to waste remembering where I put the blotting paper, no time to scrub my hands clean before I have to get back to work.

In the midst of decision making, mulling things over, clearing out the cupboard, facing up to sentimentality that wants to hoard things, I found the tiny bottle again. It is so small I can almost hide it in the cup of my hand. For something so tiny, it seems to hold so much - so much that I had avoided. 

Associations grotesque and Gothic fly through my imagination like a moralistic story stokes the red heat of guilt in a child. 'Drink me', it pleads, and a flood of Dali illustrations for 'Alice in Wonderland' tumble through me just like I have spilt them with the ink across the floor. It looks medicinal, like it holds something slightly sinister beneath it's stained cork stopper and the brittle seal of aging wax. Poison for a pen, perhaps? It looks like something from the times of Dickens.

The wax shatters in my hand, snaps away from the glass, hard edged. The stopper is creaking in the neck. It emerges with the suck of gorged and satisfied stained lips and with a vapour that could hold and nurture a malicious genie. Something salty about the smell, a high note that rushes to wake you up in a place deep in behind the eyes. It hits as a slightly bitter pepper to a place at the back of  your tongue, where breath must plummet deeper before it falls over the edge into pulsing darkness. 

With too slim a neck to take my dip pen, I pour the ink out into a shallow dish. Not what I expected. Time has softened this earthy sepia into leaf green. It is a beautiful shade, similar to one of the favourite paints I use most. Set free from it's shady vial, I scrawl and write nonsense with it, draw with unusual rhythms and repetitions that surprise me. I rapidly use up what I have rescued from evaporating into the ether and play across the welcoming page.