The more I looked, the more there was to see


Janice Galloway recounts her many encounters with the paintings of Pieter Breugel @ Edinburgh Review. As a child, I knew what I loved. Pictures and growing things, words and animals - any or all of these and I was in seventh heaven. Animals delighted in their openness and purpose: curious, non-judgmental and never prey to self-pity, they simply were. Coloured pencils to draw with, flowers, trees and folk tales, yielded delight for much the same reason. All could be played with. I had no desire for exotica, for everything was exotic by default; new, fresh-peeled and incontrovertibly present. 

That intense pleasure in my own back yard remained till I reached puberty, when - as happens with so many of us - a notion of more insinuated its way into a craving and would not insinuate back out. I had no idea what kind of more I wanted, or even what it looked like, but I lusted after it anyway, sure it was out there somewhere, waiting for me to find and pluck it, straight from the tree. And by somewhere, I meant somewhere else. The local was, or so I thought, seen-it-all territory: like mangoes, more might be found only further, much further, afield.To help, my aunt and uncle hit on the idea of taking me, as a birthday treat, to the bright lights of Glasgow with £2 to spend. Millers - Queen Street, just off the bustle of George Square - was where genuine out-in-the-world art students went to buy supplies, and, knowing I loved drawing, it seemed an ideal place to drop me off. I was fifteen, clueless and drunk on the smell of linseed from the moment I opened the door. Inside were walls of specialized, beautifully-packaged, colour-blazoned stuff. There were inks and chalks, charcoal and 6Bs, brushes in hog, squirrel and sable; bottles of oil and albumen and varnish and turpentine like ingredients for a secret spell and jars of powders whose purpose eluded me altogether. Even the paint were mysterious: so many types! From watercolours wrapped in foil-backed blocks to fat tubes of acrylics, oils and gouaches and on again to tiny pots of lacquer, enamel, finishes and topcoats. The only bad bit was on the price-labels. Everything cost a fortune, and £2 was not going to make much of an impression on what I’d need to begin. More, it seemed, was not to be mine in this shop , unless ... unless I found it another way. In something smaller, more contained; something complete in itself yet full of possibility. And that meant - it always meant - a book.

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