My Artwork

Posted on December 31, 2010

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My sister Kathy.1960-2005. My dad has this picture sitting on his windowsill across from his bed at the nursing home.

 

When I was in the first grade I sat on the left side of the room. three chairs from the front. I cried a lot, hiding behind a book. I missed my mom. Mrs. Sands walked by my desk towards the back of the room while I was drawing. My friend and I were giggling when she came up from behind me, and circling my desk said, “That’s not a tree! Trees don’t look like that! That’s a lollipop!” My friend quickly snapped back, “That’s mean!” But the words had been said and my eyes were opened for the first time in my life. I never looked at a tree the same again. I really saw them and everything else differently. And I tried from then on to match on paper what I saw through new eyes.

In the second grade our art teacher took us outside and told us to draw the trees that were sitting on the top of the hill outside the classroom. She talked about shading. I was fascinated with seeing, again for the first time, how light fell on branches and leaves. I remember feeling absorbed in studying the trees and watching the trees I’d drawn come to life. 

I drew an astronaut in the third or fourth grade. It was an assignment because we were landing on the moon back in those days. It was pretty good. And then in the fifth grade there was Todd Hampson. He drew everything with tiny dots, I couldn’t get over how he could’ve thought of that!And for the first time I was intimidated. It wasn’t until high school that I started to incorporate pointillism into my artwork. I loved the patience that it took to texture a tree or a meadow with fine lines and dots of different lengths and shades of black and gray from my pen.

I hated high school. Everyone was dating. I was such a little girl. So awkward and shy. I’d hang out with my friends in the woods during lunch doing all sorts of things. But that got old. When I couldn’t find anyone to hang out with I got extremely nervous so I headed to the art room because I knew I was allowed in there even if I didn’t have a class. What fun I had. I made jewelry and experimented with batik. I got quite good at it.

Brothers Mike and Chris with me and Mom sitting on her steps the weekend of Kathy's memorial. I felt so awkward without Kathy, and being 8 mos. pregnant that I held a ceramic frog to lighten the mood. 2005.

Then during one art class the teacher asked us all to answer one question. “What is art?” All I could think to say was, “It’s a way of expressing yourself.” More than thirty years later I can say that that’s true. But for me it has become more. I’ve learned how I see things differently than everyone else. I know what I find interesting. My soul hungers and is fed with food unlike anyone one else’s. And I spend my time reproducing what I see.

About ten years ago a read a newspaper article about a girl who’d died in a horse-riding accident. I called the mother to see if I could paint a picture of her as a gift. We met in my living room and poured over snapshots of her daughter. She showed me which ones she liked, but I knew the right one the minute I saw it. You could really see who she was, sitting on top her horse, laughing and stroking its mane. She was barefoot and casual. I spent week’s on that painting. I hated it and gave up so many times, crying. That was the year I learned about life’s layering. I learned to keep adding the details to let it come to life. I learned not to walk away as something was taking its time to develop. I also learned that oil paint needs specific surfaces if it’s going to survive for any length of time. Those were the times when formal training would’ve been helpful! I was always afraid of classes. I didn’t want to lose my soul and forget how to see and to feel. I still have the need to learn a lot. But I also still have that fear. I’ve been told recently that I’m willful. I think that’s funny. Sad that it was said as a negative, but funny that I still have some life left in me!

Most of what I do now is pencil work. It says so much and doesn’t make my head too confused. It’s rare that I find something in a photograph that I feel like drawing. So much of life is posed. I hate giving the finished pictures away. I feel like they’re my children. So now I copy them and frame them to enjoy in my house. I always feel better when I finish a drawing, like I’ve lived a little more fully. I’m grateful to have been given a courageous spirit. Because that’s all that ever stands between us and the art within waiting to come out!

Brody, Lauren, and Sarah laughing at Grandma's picnic table. About 1995.

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