A Quote, A Definition, and A Discovery

The Quote:

“I dream of painting and then I paint my dreams.”

Vincent Van Gogh

For many, many years I have carried around a greeting card with that quote on it, and for those same many, many years I have used it to beat myself over the head as an artist. I don’t dream of painting, I’m actually one of those people who rarely remember their dreams. I took that quote quite literally, like the children of The Night Before Christmas, but instead of visions of sugarplums dancing in my head I thought I should be conjuring up great works of art.  I paint from my photographs and sketches. There are gifted artists who can imagine worlds of their own creation, I’m just not one of them when it comes to painting, and quite frankly I’m not sure Van Gogh was either. He painted what he saw in front of him, from sketches he made of places he’d been, or places he lived, and maybe a little dreamy magic. I seem to have a gift for getting in my own way as an artist. I tell myself I’m failing at it, or somehow don’t have the right to call myself one. That leads me to…

A Definition: (Thank you Google)

art·ist
ˈärdəst/
a person who produces paintings or drawings as a profession or hobby.
a person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as a sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker.
a person skilled at a particular task or occupation.
I started drawing at a very young age, I began to paint at twelve, and I sold my first piece at fifteen. Did I call myself an artist? Yes I did, at least in the beginning, but then the self doubt began to creep in. There’s the “I’m not good enough” monster that resides in my brain. I mentioned the monster back at the beginning of this blog four years ago. I was under the illusion that I had defeated it, but I haven’t and thought I couldn’t. I’ve spent a lifetime with this constant companion; it lives inside me as much as every other part of me. I think part of my artistic problem is last I’m living in the land of “Supposed To”. In my mind an artist was always a painter and a skilled technician in drawing or sculpting.  I realize that’s ridiculous. Read the definition. I should have it tattooed on my forearm so that every time I feel the monster raise its ugly head I can read it myself. I think that from a very young age I thought that I had to paint to call myself an artist. The reality is that I have no problem acknowledging the art of others and giving them the title, I just have a problem with myself.  Which leads me to…
The Discovery (actually discoveries):
I haven’t posted on this blog as of late because I had no work to post. Have I been working?  Yes, I have been working every single day.  The problem (in my own mind) is that I haven’t been painting. What I am about to write is so absurd that I can’t believe it myself. I have been embarrassed to call myself an artist because of the work I have produced. There, I said it out loud. I have spent the last several weeks producing work for a show, a show that calls itself an “Artisan Walk”. Was I invited to be part of the show because I am a talent-less hack? Nope, I am just being me again and getting in my own way.  I gave all of this a great deal of thought yesterday. Much of the thought was inspired by an outing with a dear friend on Sunday. This dear friend has a tendency to be highly critical of me, but when he saw what I have been producing he called me a genius. My discovery is this: I don’t dream of painting, but I have very magical and enchanting visions when I am awake. It involves fairies. That’s right, fairies. I have been making them for more than twenty years, and it has been my greatest financial success as an (dare I say it?), artist.
My second discovery or better yet realization is that as much as might dream of painting, I am more compelled by anything in my life to make children happy. I love creating enchanted worlds, of inspiring little ones to use their own imaginations, and to hopefully give them a moment of magic in a world that can be a very difficult place. I have loved the idea of fairies since childhood. At the last show I did I was approached by a woman much older than myself who was so excited by my work. She spoke to me of growing up in England near a forest. She and her sisters would play at the edge of the woods. Their mother would tell them tales of fairies, and leave them “fairy notes” tucked in tree trunks and flowers. While she was speaking to me her face took on a faraway look, as silly as it might seem in that moment she looked like a little girl again, lost in the memories of her youth.
I may never produce the masterpiece that I thought I was supposed to do, and in the years after I am gone no one may see my work hanging in a museum, but I have no doubt that in the imagination of many children I have planted a seed that they will hopefully remember and pass on.
If you happen to be in or near Fallbrook, CA on April 23rd, I will be at The Artisan Walk on Alvarado as part of the Fallbrook Avocado Festival. Stop by and say hello.
Advertisements

Precarious Unpacking

Are you familiar with Jenga? You know the game where there are a stack of pieces that you pull out one at a time until someone pulls the wrong piece and everything goes tumbling down? Welcome to my world. Nearly three months in and still unpacking. We left a house that was a little more than three thousand square feet, and moved into one just shy of fourteen hundred. To say space is an issue is an understatement. My studio is jammed with books and supplies, and there are still unopened boxes in the garage. The kitchen isn’t even half the size, actually about a quarter of the size of my old one. The weight of “stuff” is upon me. I mentioned Jenga because that is how things are happening around here. I open a box and put a precarious stack of things together, and hope nothing will fall. It’s not that I am being careless; it’s that I actually don’t have anywhere to put anything. As I told Dan this morning, “You know I’m in trouble when I’m happy that I broke something. It means that I don’t have to find a place for it!” We are collectors. (Actually it’s more me than Dan, but this is California, you know 50/50? He owns half, I own half, so he gets half the blame) Thirty years of flea markets and antique stores, and our shared passion for books. He is equally guilty on this one. We love to read, for Dan world events, current events, and history; I have an addiction to design, art, and cookbooks. We built shelves, lots of shelves, but there just don’t seem to be enough. There are bookcases in the studio, one in the guest room, and soon to be one in the very small master bedroom. Then there is art. This one would be obvious because I’m an artist and photographer, as is my daughter, and my son (if he could ever admit it) has a good photographer’s eye. My mother-in-law is an artist, as is my brother-in-law, we love Maxfield Parrish, and vintage prints, photography, and have cool funky fleas market pieces….I think I’m starting to sweat, like I said, overwhelmed, buried alive, frustrated, and unfortunately, extremely sentimental. It makes getting rid of things a nightmare. I look at a box with dread, but then I open it and the “Oh I remember this.”, or the “But the kids made this…gave me this… might want this…”, and then there is, “It might be worth something, we can’t just get rid of it.” Breaking stuff (on accident I swear) takes the decision making out of it for me. I feel an instant pang of regret, followed by an equally joyous moment of elation because I have to throw it out. I’m sure to some of you it would be easy. No room for that old doll? Off with its head. Another antique plate? How many plates can one eat off? Gone! But not me, I remember every piece, every moment. I know that the vintage wooden pillars with the delicious aqua patina were a steal for $35 at the Wheeling, Illinois Flea Market. The guy had no change and I did, so he let them go. The white shabby half column? From a road trip through Ohio with Dan and the kids, the same trip that brought me the reproduction funky, slightly creepy, painted crow with the glass eyes that seem to stare right through you. The four green Depression glass plates that Jessica bought for me, one of the first gifts she bought me with her own money. The little ceramic chef that was a gift from my mother-in-law that reminds me so much of Brian. I obviously have issues. For me vintage pieces come with a former life, a connection to another soul, something that someone cared enough to hang on to, maybe it comes from the desire to have a larger family. Most of our family is in Ireland. No big family reunions, no crazy aunt that everyone giggles about behind her back, no old family home with an attic filled with treasures. For most of my life it was just my parents and my three sisters. When the four of us were married and had eight children between us, I was thrilled. When the kids were small holidays were great. Now I am here in California, the kids have all grown, my daughter lives in New York, my niece currently resides in Nebraska, another nephew exploring the idea of Texas, my sister soon to move to Nevada, and our parents are gone. We’ve gone from a party of eighteen to three, and that is only until Brian decides where he will end up, and then there are two. There is no one in the world I would want to be in a duo with more than Dan, but it does get lonely in our little world…did I get sidetracked? Yes, of course I did. Back to the stuff! The boxes are dwindling. I am finally making some headway, and making some hard choices along the way. We have decided to set aside some things we really love, even if that means they live in a box in the garage for now.

In an earlier post I mentioned the possibility of starting a blog about our new home and the renovations we would undertake. The truth is that the house just isn’t large enough to do that. We have made some changes, significant ones, but I think that I could cover it in about two posts. Some changes will have to wait for monetary reasons, some because quite frankly we are tired, and some because we have decided that this time, in this house, we will take our time and get what we really want. So for now I’m off to the land of bubble wrap and moving boxes, and hope that in today’s game of Jenga I come out the winner.

One final note, our twenty-sixth wedding anniversary was June 24th. Dan’s job made it impossible to go out for dinner. As anyone who reads my ramblings might know, the one thing we miss the most about our old house is our garden.The new garden is a hideous mess of dead weeds and hard cracked ground, but there is just a small bit of a patio. I decided with a little help from Brian to create a little piece of our favorite city, Paris, in our own back yard. A quick trip to the home improvement store for some lattice panels and metal brackets, some rummaging through our stuff, and a bistro was born. We had dinner in the garden, and enjoyed it so much we plan to expand on it. (That will be of course once the Jenga game is completed) A few photos of the “bistro”.

IMG_4559

IMG_4561

IMG_4568

Beginning The Goodbye

I think I might just see the end in sight. As I said the other day, I’ve been dragging my feet, or in my case, my knee. I didn’t want to move, but as often happens, life sometimes makes our choices for us, this one wasn’t mine to choose. I believe we will be for sale by Wednesday. The last few details to be finished in the coming days. The endless weeks of primping my house as if she were going to her first prom are coming to an end. Freshly painted, immaculately clean (OK, so the cat hair tumbleweeds can be an issue), and dressed to the nines. I’m like a proud mother sending my girl off to the dance, and as any mother can tell you it’s never easy, except this time it will be me leaving my nest behind. I will worry and fret that she is loved and cared for in the same way I did. There has been much life lived in this house. My daughter was married from it, my son grew up in it, both Dan and I lost a parent while living in it. We found security within its walls as our life fell apart. As long as we had our home we felt that everything would be OK.  We celebrated our love and marriage of twenty-five years in it. When we left Chicago (actually the Village of Lindenhurst), where we bought our first home, we left behind a piece of our hearts as well as a sneaky reminder of us. Dan carved our names into the bottom of a post he installed between the living room and dining room, and had the kids sign as well. It remains to be seen if we will leave something so tangible here, but we will leave the ghost of us in its walls . The laughter, the tears, the heartaches, successes, and so much love, are the essence of what a home should be, and they are here, and in our hearts and minds. I only wish for those who follow the same kind of bond, the same kind of love, the same kind of precious memories that make a house a home. I will miss this place, my beautiful garden, but most of all I will treasure the memories that were created here.

 

I have made much of how I will miss my garden. I was looking through old photos tonight and thought I would share what our vision created.  A before and after, an engagement party for Jessica and John that we held there, and finally one garden project that will travel with us. The table that Dan and I built together. We will have to build a new garden around it.

garden 268

IMG_9707

IMG_9737

dad's camera 040

dad's camera 062

 

 

A Quick Update

When I was a little girl my favorite show was Bewitched, you know she of the wiggling nose? Samantha only had to twitch that little nose and everything was magically in its place. I need that nose. I need that ability. We are still buried here at Chez Zuckerman. Our dreams of having our house up by August 1st are laughable. There is so much more to do that I am overwhelmed, overworked, over-tired, basically I’m over it. We are currently in the kitchen, packing and cleaning, and did I mention repainting the HGTV recommended neutral palette? The painting is done, but now we have to finish putting the room back together, less cluttered (HGTV), less personal (HGTV), essentially bare, boring, and not us. We have put a few pieces back on the walls, and of course books, books, and more books, but even those are whittled down quite a bit. We are racing the clock, and I fear we are losing. I woke at 4:30 this morning with a list racing through my brain. I jumped up, came down, and didn’t sit back down until nearly 7:30 this evening. (If memory serves me there was some implication that I don’t like work) I’m beat, Dan’s beat, our not so young muscles and joints are protesting, but we can’t stop. We can almost see the finish line. It makes me sad in a way. As tired as I am, once this is done the house goes up. We heard today that houses in this area are going fast, again good and bad. I don’t really want to leave, but we need to.  I’d just like a few more evenings in my beautiful garden before I have to say goodbye. Still no idea where we will end up. Just an update tonight. My fingers hurt as much as the rest of me. Enjoy your Sunday everyone, we’ll be here cleaning and packing. Here’s a shot of my beloved garden.

 

IMG_9707

 

And something on the vine…I will miss it so

6 27 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Early Spring

We are finally expecting a little rain out here in Southern California I know for some people that rain isn’t very good news, but for me it is more than welcome. Aside from the fact that California is in the midst of a drought, I miss rain. I miss weather. I spent most of my life in Chicago, in hot humid summers, freezing cold winters, but glorious spring days, and crisp fall winds. I’m sure everyone who is freezing in the Midwest and the East must think I’m insane, but for me a little bad weather takes me home. It was overcast this morning and I was sure a few drops might fall from the sky, but by late morning the sun was in full shine. My sister tells me that they are expecting a snowstorm in Chicago this weekend. Dan and I walked this morning in the unusually cool air, and as we walked I, as always, admired the beauty that is around us. Yes we are very lucky to live where we live, where Spring raises her head just a little earlier than most places, but in my heart Chicago will always be home, late season snow storms and all.

Tonight just a little pen and ink, part of a thank you I need to send. The drawing inspired by a terrific book by W.G. Paulson Townsend, “Plant And Floral Studies for Artists and Craftspeople”. I loved the finished drawing, but I also enjoy adding just a touch of color with Photo-shop. Last week a package arrived with a small kitchen scale in it. I hadn’t ordered it, and I was quite puzzled at where it came from, there was no receipt included. After a few days Dan received a text message from his mother. My mystery gift was from her. My mother in law very generously wanted to help with my business, and said I could use the scale to help to figure out shipping. It is a very thoughtful gesture. I plan to incorporate the drawing into a card in the morning.2 26 14 (2)

2 26 14 (1)

Also for tonight a touch of Spring, photos from our walk this morning. The Jasmine is in bloom, as is Iris, and quite a few flowers in my garden. A gift of hope for my family and friends due east.

IMG_5716IMG_5715IMG_5708IMG_5711IMG_5697

IMG_5621IMG_5704IMG_5701IMG_5696