Paper Narcissus (1)
“Paper Narcissus” original watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

I don’t know why it is surprising to see sunshine–other than a few drops to wash off the dust yesterday, sunshine is a cash crop here in California. There is no negotiating with Nature. My motto, adopted from baseball player Ernie Banks, former shortstop for the Chicago Cubs is, “The whole theory of my life is sunshine, and today the sun is shining.”

The rain did bring these lovely narcissus though and they look nice showing off in front of the antique Chinese robe. I have a love of artistry and of things made by hand, and the robe is embroidered with thousands of tiny stitches said to have been made by blind nuns. I heard a phrase that Pope Francis said which seems appropriate: “There are some realities that you can only see through eyes that have been cleansed by tears.”

I don’t remember deciding to become a writer. You decide to become a dentist or a postman or woman. I always defined myself as a sculptor if I ever thought about it. I have a sign which says so, which hangs in my garage along with other things formerly important only in my imagination. In my chrysalis days in art shows and street fairs, it hung beside my table, directing potential customers.

As writers our eyes and ears are always open for snippets of something to expand upon. Today’s snippet came from my good friend Bill and it deals with the cleaning of an old oil painting.

Bill is a connoisseur of antiquities, and came by an old and dirty painting by way of a relative. I had restored a couple of old paintings for him some time ago, but he took it upon himself to do this one himself. He was chuckling while he told me that he was cleaning it with spit. This is a skill you may need to know some day and it will take awhile, but courtesy of Canadian Jaqueline Mabey this is how to do it:

As far as I know this only works on oil paintings, though possibly also on acrylic. “The chemicals in saliva are like the perfect gentle cleanser; they break down the dirt and dust that builds up on the surface without damaging the paint. You’ll need little sticks, a roll of sterilized cotton, and patience4. You can’t really rush the process. It will take the time it takes.

Wrap a small amount of cotton from the roll around the tip of the stick. Stick the cottony end of the stick in your mouth between your tongue and your cheek. Roll it around getting the cotton wet, but not saturated. Remove from mouth and slowly brush the surface of the painting. Make your way slowly across the work.”

Well there you have it.

Author: kaytisweetlandrasmussen83

I am a retired fine arts teacher, sculptor/painter, writer, and a native Californian. I love my family,dogs, horses, movies, reading and music, probably in that order. I have been married forever to a very nice man who is nice to old ladies, dogs and children.


  1. Spit & polish. It’s still the army’s first requisite for boots. Some years ago, after a maniac knifed Rembrandt’s ‘Nightwatch’, it was decided to repair the slash and restore the whole painting. It is a very large painting and afterwards so much came to light again it was jokingly referred to as ‘Daywatch.’


  2. My mother, until the last weeks of her life, still was capable of licking a finger and making a pass at my face. Whether “mothers” still do it, I can’t say. But my mother never gave it up.

    One thing I remember from childhood is the advice to lick any small, bleeding wound: paper cuts, and so on. If we had a scraped knee, we would rub saliva on it. I just did a little poking around and found there are healing properties in saliva. I suspect those same properties make it a good cleaner for delicate surfaces, too.


    1. I washed my kids and grandkids faces often the same way. It seems the most natural thing to put a cut finger into our mouth. It’s also good for quickly removing a small soiled spot on a piece of clothing. We should patent it. “Just Spit On It!”


  3. What a terrific phrase, Kayti – your chrysalis days ! šŸ™‚
    Only question is: don’t they last, in truth, for one’s entire life ?


  4. I like the chrysalis days phrase too. And what Pope Francis said. Two great snippets right there! Isn’t it true, about always listening out for snippets, when being a writer? It’s good fun. Your painting is really wonderful. Great post xxx


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