Every time someone asks me what I am painting, I pause. It’s a natural question to ask an artist but it can also be a loaded one. One that doesn’t have an easy answer. Painting toy soldiers usually gets the response that somehow infers I am actually painting the soldiers themselves…like an artsy-crafty thing. I suppose that is a natural response but when I go on to explain that I am actually doing a painting of a toy soldier, the face goes slack and the eyes glaze over.
But not everyone reacts that way and I am usually surprised when someone I would assume has no interest, expresses great excitement. Toy soldiers were once a mainstay of a child’s toy collection. Yes, usually boys had them but I’ve heard the odd story of a gal playing with them as well. They hold a special place in history, the history of toys and the personal history of the owner. One friend told me I needed more soldiers in “action” and began to tell me how I could set them up. I had to explain that I could not touch them and he said it would make him crazy not to be able to pick them up.
Another older man took me aside and quietly told me about his own collection as if it were a state secret…he even had pictures on his cell phone. For him they were a time capsule, a transport to his childhood.
So while it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there isn’t just one story behind these figurines. And I feel very honored to have this experience.