Herb’s Blog, Herbdate 22347 – 812:
Here’s the haps:
I have a writing project that I have been working at on and off for a couple of years. It originally started out as a short, metaphorical story but the more I get into it, the more it seems to want to beef itself up and let itself become something quite a bit more. The main character is (very) loosely based on a phone conversation I had when I was a property adjuster with a big name insurance company that at the time catered exclusively to U.S. and Canadian military officers. They have since expanded but at the time that was the clientele.
This would have been the mid-to-late Nineties, I think. He worked in fine art restoration and spoke with great pride about his work. It was in regard to a claim for a very expensive painting which he said he could fix. And he could, too. He even had a website (In the mid-to-late Nineties this was a kind of novel thing. “Does your computer have an Internet browser?”). There were before and after pictures of his work and it was truly amazing. He was an artist and he had restored all manner of things; oil paintings, statuary, porcelain and I don’t remember what all else he could do. He explained his processes in laymen’s terms and I was genuinely impressed. I forgot his name long ago but what he did made a big impression on me. No average person had ever been able to tell what had been done when he finished his work and only a very few professionals could. He was not arrogant or even a braggart, he just knew what he was capable of. I expect he came across as proud and boastful but I’ve always heard, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it.” You can do an internet search of botched art restoration to see the exact opposite of what I’m talking about. There is info out there about proper conservation but a couple of the botched jobs made my jaw drop and I know zero about art.
A few years ago something happened to a young friend of mine and I began to think about what the Master Artist does in people’s lives and how he restores lives and hearts and souls and drew the parallel with this art restorer. I then began thinking about a character who did this kind of work. Knowledge of the various types of art would be necessary, of course, as well, in my opinion, as the soul of an artist. There was information out there about the processes they use but without knowledge, and more importantly, I expect, experience, it could turn bad. There is a nifty little invention called a Jeweler’s Loupe that plays into this job on occasion and many others as well from time to time. Examing each line and each broken piece under extreme magnification. I wanted to see for myself so I searched for them and found this little beauty for around ten bucks.
There are some types that have higher magnification and types that are worn on the head but if they are just inspecting something, a poorly seated gem in a ring or the gem itself, they whip this little guy out of their pocket and can tell a lot about what will be needed for the repair, authenticity, etc. I had used magnifying glasses, of course, but this is different. It’s like having a pocket microscope, almost. I think if I knew about art or gems this would be a handy tool but it’s still fun and just kind of cool to have. If I were to try to repair something that had been shattered and broken this would be a tool I would want to have. It seems clear to me that it would be very handy to stamp or coin or money collectors as well. Anyway, I bought this one so I might begin to get inside this guy’s head I am creating and see things the way he could see them if someone showed him a water-damaged oil painting or broken sculpture.