Cathy Read-Artist-Lost Balloon Painting

How a Lost Balloon sparked memories of childhood play and time wasted at school.

The memory is vivid.

An orange balloon floating upwards, untethered. Feeling sad as I imagined a small child crying, mourning its loss. Inconsolable in grief. I’ve forgotten where the photo was taken but not the emotion. It was somewhere by the Thames, I may have been on foot or on a boat? It was taken a while ago and I’ve wanted to paint it ever since. 

We’re in the City of London, in an area normally heaving with life. In the days before COVID, the only quiet time was on a Sunday, when the whole area was practically deserted. Except for security guards and maybe maintenance crews.

Which makes that lone balloon so poignant.

I see a parent having to work on their day off, buying a small treat to keep their child happy. There may have been other toys, but this was The One.  The only thing that could entertain in such a barren world.

Or maybe the office itself was the treat?

My mum worked at a special school when I was a child. Sometimes she would paint the windows with Disney characters over a weekend and we’d accompany her. We had the run of the school, but more, there were therapy toys. These were a source of endless delight.

Our favourite pastime was riding the various wheeled toys, meant for physical therapy. We rode them round the empty building, cycling at dangerous speeds down the corridors or dodging each other on wheeled tyre toys in the school hall. We’d lie on them and use our handson the floor to propelled ourselves or use our feet to push off a wall and see how far we could go. All this was unsupervised, Mum being the only adult in the building and solely focussed on painting Captain Hook. We had a whale of a time.

Now, about the painting and that lost balloon. I can’t imagine a school in that mix, but an office free of adults, or most of them. Office chairs with wheels and the scope for fun. You can imagine the delight! Did they run upstairs, following the balloon until it was out of sight? That’s what my brother and I would have done. Seeing it’s orange shape vanishing in an anonymous city, but now I’m rambling.

Every time you look at a painting, there’s a story to discover. Sometimes it’s obvious and othertimes it  needs a little imagination and a willingness to play with ideas.

The Importance of Play in Art

Play is essential. I believe it’s the most important activity anyone can engage in. It’s never wasted. That is, if it’s done properly! Some people don’t know how to play, or think it’s only for children. If only they knew how wrong they are. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but play is the method by which she works. It doesn’t matter where a child is, they will find a way to play, if you let them. We can learn a lot from this attitude.

What's your take on the scene?

Cathy Read-Artist-Lost Balloon Painting
Lost Balloon - ©2023 - Cathy Read -Watercolour and acrylic ink - 59 x 42 cm

See more of Cathy's Paintings

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