When I was young, and still today actually, I was fascinated by old keys. I had a few of them at one time, collected from antique stores. They were only sold for their visual appeal, of course, as their original use and the door they once opened remained a complete mystery. I used to love imagining what each key might have opened. A door in a mysterious old mansion that led to a secret room or simply the door of a cabinet that contained years of collected curiosities. Each time I would imagine it, the stories would shift and change in my mind. It always felt like I was holding a piece of a puzzle that needed to be solved. And the very act of dreaming about the solution was as satisfying as if I had actually solved it. In many ways, I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to know the truth. It might not be as intriguing and grand as the fiction I’d vividly imagined. As I got older, I began to lose my fascination with keys a bit. The modern versions weren’t as ornate and seemed to posses all of the function, but lacked any understanding of the emotion there. The very idea that something needs to be locked up means that it must surely be special in some way. Or at least, that was always the case for the stories in my imagination.
Today, when I see an object that poses lots of questions, I still invent little tales in my mind before attempting to google my way to an answer. This, for me, is still the most satisfying. There’s a very fine line between fact and fiction. A really wonderful fiction will invent a million possibilities while still managing to tell the truth as well. It can sometimes reveal more about what something actually means than the mere facts of the matter. Though, don’t get me wrong, I adore my facts and trivia! But, I really love the stories that only I could write. Bits of imagination mingling with information that produce a truth that is far more powerful than facts alone. In my own little stories, like the cookbook Philippe and I created, my mother told my sister that I exaggerated when I said my father ate all of the meat in our stew, rendering me a young vegetarian. I assumed this must likely be true, until my sister on a recent phone conversation said, “Nope, he totally did that!” I was vindicated and yet it would have been just as true had I only felt that he did. And either way, it made me adore him all the more, and I still think it’s rather funny.
It’s so phenomenal to me what the human mind is capable of imagining when given the space to do so properly. For me, I think the best moment happen when I sit down and begin sketching stuff each day. My mind wanders to places that I never knew it needed to go. Certainly, these posts are evidence of that, as they bend and turn through a single moment of imagining. I don’t start out with a point, I only hope to find it on the journey. Each flick of my fountain pen and wash of color from my brush adds the subtext that I wasn’t aware of, only a moment before. It’s then my job to discover what I just learned in the process. Today, I’ve learned that old keys are more than the mysteries they evoke. They’re a self-portrait of my own fears, concerns and worries of how to unlock my future. Which one will open the door to success? And how on earth do I even define success? But as ever, I retreat back, to have a conversation with my inner child. He tells me that all of the answers are right there and I’ve known them all along. All I have to do to unlock them is to embrace my past self and use those keys that once opened doors.
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Aureolin, Vermilion, and Indigo (my “Vintage” Trio!). Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with black ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Send me a note with a link to this post, and I’ll add it to my shop!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!