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BATIK ART BY JONATHAN S. EVANS
Confessions of an Itinerant Batik Artist

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ALONE AGAIN, NATURALLY

 

I was both sad and glad when Susan had gone and decided that it was time to learn to live alone again. It seemed like I had been in relationships fairly continually since I left home in Aberdeen, Scotland and started my adventures out in the World. It also seemed that my relationships were getting steadily less happy and less successful and that it was time to take a conscious break from the search for Love and Affection and to try to live on my own. And then I got a call from Simma to say that Jeffrey had been given new responsibilities and had been transferred to the Sacramento office of his computer company. They had decided to move up to Grass Valley straight away. Jeffrey would commute to work and they would start to build their new house as soon as possible. I was thrilled with the news, for we had talked about living together as an extended family since being neighbours in Ibiza. Long ago, in Ibiza, we had all realized that the world and lifestyle we all loved so much was changing and we would have to move on somewhere new eventually. This was to be the culmination of ideas and plans that we had made long before in Simma's little finca above San Jose. But there wouldn't be space for us all in the Dome and I called in our neighbour Ron to help me make the chicken shack habitable.

Actually we managed to turn the shack into one of my all-time favourite homes by knocking out the whole front wall in the little space upstairs and putting in a big glass. That little top room became my bedroom. I couldn't stand up in it, but there was room for a big mattress and the view through the trees as I lay or sat up there was stunning. Some textiles on the walls and some bright pink carpeting that I managed to scrounge from a carpeting store in Auburn made the shack very cosy, though aesthetically a bit questionable. There was more carpeting downstairs, Ron gave me an iron wood stove and we put up a mirror to expand the space downstairs. I hung a trapeze bar to swing from in the living room. A funky ladder that we knocked together linked the two spaces and left me room to set up a wash basin, work counter and batik table by the front door. Outside I built a little deck and we eventually set in two new windows downstairs for light. Water had to be carried in and I had an outhouse behind the shack. Before it got cold again, Ron and I insulated the little house and it soon felt like my home.

I had started to work very hard again and first finished my batik portrait commission which turned out really well. Then I started on a series of local landscapes, views of the far-off Sierra Nevada snow peaks and of the oak trees every where. It was early Autumn, the wind blew little white clouds across a deep blue California sky and the leaves were starting to turn gold and fall. Inevitably this was a time for reflection and I was very conscious that one era had ended in my life and another was starting. Summer had finally gone and so had Susan. I was going to have to learn to live alone again.

As always I was saved from any depression by my art. I really loved the new landscape and as more and more leaves fell, I could begin to see the contours of the land I was living on. My views extended further and further. I soon had half a dozen new landscapes finished and had found a nice drycleaner in Grass Valley who was happy to clean the wax off my pieces.

I could probably write a whole chapter about Drycleaners I have Known. From my faithful drycleaner Antonio, in Barcelona to the curious old man on Ninth Avenue in New York whose old building suddenly collapsed and fell down without warning one day, to my much later born-again drycleaner in West Virginia, this tiny cadre of faithful public servants and supporters of the Arts have been indispensable to any success I may have had. Of course I've brought business and hopefully a little culture, enlightenment or even pleasure into their lives. For in every case, in every piece of batik that I have created, my faithful Drycleaner has seen the finished work before I have. Without exception, they have all been supportive and encouraging to me and have even given me advice about dyes and process. Of course there was one drycleaner who looked at the wax-covered batiks that I had brought him to clean and had very seriously told me that the cleaning might take all the wax out of my cloth! Long Hail the Lord Drycleaner, without whom the lowly Artist might be dead!

Perhaps the only shadow on my new life in Grass Valley was a sudden telegram from Pamela in Oregon to say that Susan had been judged too manic and disruptive by the Powers that be at the Ranch. Pamela was putting her on a plane to Sacramento and sending her back to me which made me very angry. But I got even more upset when I drove sixty miles to pick her up from the airport and found that Susan wasn't on the plane as expected. When I called Pamela, she told me that poor Susan had flipped out on the plane, had been dragged off it screaming and had been hospitalized once more. Poor poor Susan! I managed to talk to her on the telephone but she was sedated and rambled on without making any sense. A few days later she voluntarily committed herself into care at the Danish State Hospital for an unspecified time. I had an angry telephone talk with Pamela who was of course just trying to get on with her own life. But then who could take responsibility for Susan and her heavy load?

A quick trip down to San Francisco got me a new family portrait commission from friends of Simma's and I returned to Grass Valley to try and concentrate on my own life and my new work. It was much cooler by now and I lit the funky old hand-made oil drum stove as I listened to KMVR Radio alone at nights and read novels that tended to make me nostalgic for Merrie Old England. So I began to settle into a Grass Valley routine after three or four months there. The Zankels would show up for most weekends and we'd spend two days of frenetic activity, clearing land, getting a garden together, picking up stones and rocks, chopping firewood and making plans at night. I loved having the children around and was especially fond of Zeb, my godson. He would follow me around all day and had become my good buddy. There was a limited scene in Nevada City and we went out to eat and hear music there occasionally. Jeffrey and I even went to our local bar, the Dew Drop Inn, for a Thursday night of Belly Dancing but I believe that he enjoyed it more that I did. The exotic dancing of the two women didn't gel with the redneck bar setting for me and I merely wished that I could be in Istanbul or thereabouts. Ron and Sarah became great friends of all of ours and we often ate vegetables together at night and talked till late. During the quieter five days of the week when I was all alone on the land, I finished some more landscapes and also the portrait commission from Simma's friends so that I somehow managed to stay solvent. I started on a portrait of Susan, wearing a shawl around her head against a background of fall trees which I named "Trees on Fire".

 

 

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