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.

My Prayer To Father Time

And it came to me then,

That every plan,

Is a tiny prayer to father time.

The lyrics to one of my favorite songs, “What Sarah Said”, by Death Cab for Cutie. The last time I posted was January 3rd about my plans for the New Year, and my hopes that I would be creating. Alas the universe said, “Not so fast.” Have I created? Yes, of course I have because for me its like breathing. Unfortunately for me my other great talent in life seems to be finding ways to not be well, or to injure myself. I had spent December 30th in the ER because of unexplained chest pain. Long story short…in my own anxious little way I am well on my way to an ulcer. That discovery came only after many doctor visits and tests. That was January. February brought its own delights. Another Urgent Care trip, and from there to the ER again. I’m fine. Well at least I was until I got bronchitis. Oh, its March, and as I told everyone last week the Urgent Care and ER people were missing me and wondering where I was, so I sprained my ankle. I kid you not.

I had spent the latter end of December cleaning out and reorganizing my studio for the grand plans for 2017. I finally tried to work in there yesterday and now can’t remember where I put anything. Fortunately I also have a wonderful ability to laugh at myself. Go ahead, I know I have it coming. Last summer I went to see a doctor for my thumb which had broken and wasn’t healing well. The doctor gave me a cortisone injection in my right thumb (OUCH), I left his office and drove to pick Dan up from the airport where I closed the door on my left hand and broke a finger. Seriously. My friend Denise says she really isn’t laughing at me but with me. Which is true because it’s about all I can do.

Onward to art! In between doctor visits I actually did work a little. At my daughter’s request I created all the Peanuts characters for my grandson’s first birthday. Creating poster board sized characters for my kids birthday’s was always a tradition. I also wrote and illustrated a children’s book. I gave Timmy my first copy as a birthday gift.  I still need to tweak a few things before I’m ready to move forward with it. I’ve also sorted through piles and piles of paper that I’ve accumulated for inspiration and ideas. As I mentioned above, my studio is cleaned and very organized with the exception of labeling several boxes so I can actually find my supplies!

So here’s to My New Year, commencing today March 6th, with a little prayer to Father Time.

To Whom It May Concern,

April will be here before you know it. I’d like to not see the inside of a doctor’s office, an Urgent Care, or ER. I’m praying you’ll give me a break, and by that I don’t mean any bones.  I promise to look where I’m going, to stop worrying about every single little thing, and to continue to amuse myself at my own expense.

Finally, I include a piece of art from right around the holidays. My daughter Jessica had taken a photo of my son’s beautiful girlfriend, Olivia. From the moment I saw it I knew I had to paint it. I finished it in time for Brian’s Christmas gift, a portrait of Olivia in watercolor.

Lessons Learned

It’s been five months now since my Dad passed away. I of course still miss him daily. I find myself unable to see elderly men out alone, it reminds me of his loneliness, and that is difficult for me. I recently had to leave the produce section at the grocery store because there was a man of a similar age shopping alone. It moved me to tears. I found myself wondering if he had family, or if he was alone in this world. In Sunday’s New York Times there was an extensive article about a man named George Bell. He had died alone at home, discovered only because of the odor that began to escape his apartment. The article told of the procedures involved when the police discover situations such as George’s, but it also shed a little light on George and his life. George may not have had anyone in his last moments, but his story will stay with me, and in that he won’t be forgotten.

When you lose both of your parents issues of your own mortality come to the surface. You become the oldest generation in your family. It’s an odd feeling. Many years ago someone (who shall remain nameless since she seems to go out of her way to say not nice things) told me I was a bad mother. Why? Because I was too close to my children, and that in the end that would hurt them. I hadn’t yet lost a parent at the time. I sort of get it now, but I don’t agree. When you’re a parent the hardest thing in the world is to see your child hurt or in pain. It’s intolerable. Knowing the pain that my Mom’s death caused, and the recent loss of my Dad (more about that below), what troubles me most isn’t that I’ll die, but its knowing that my own children will suffer at my loss. The one pain in their lives I cannot heal. When I saw Titanic I wasn’t moved by the love story of Rose and Jack (they quite frankly could have gone down with the ship and I wouldn’t have cared…no offense Leo and Kate), what did move me, and resonate with me, was the scene of the Irish woman in steerage putting her children to bed knowing that they were going to drown and that there was nothing she could do about it. I can’t imagine her pain. Where I disagree with what my anonymous critic said is that as much pain as I felt eight years ago (and still do) and am currently feeling about my Dad, I wouldn’t trade my relationships with them for anything. My Mom knew I loved her more than anything, My Dad knew I loved him, and worried about him, and I knew that they loved me. Were they perfect parents? No, none of us are. They were human, but they both had a tremendous capacity for love and gave it to their four daughters. Would my pain be less if they were absent parents, or abusive parents? I don’t necessarily think so. I think that it actually might be more painful to lose someone and spend the rest of your life trying to figure out what you did that they treated you as such. I have spent nearly thirty-one years as a mom. I have spent all of those thirty-one years trying to show as much love to my daughter as possible, and twenty-five years with my son. I am not a perfect parent, and like all families we have had our moments, but I know without a single ounce of doubt that my children will always know how much I love them, and that means I’ve done my job.

When my mother died eight years ago it sent me into a tailspin of grief. It was like being at the bottom of a well without a ladder or rope to climb. Long periods of sobbing, and of questioning myself with all the “what ifs”. Eventually I sought counseling, probably one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. My Mom’s death served as a catalyst for much needed changes in me. I guess you could look at it as her final gift to me. I came out of that mourning as a stronger, more open, and determined woman.

My Dad’s final gift to me? I tend to be a loner. I always have been. I am not someone with a large circle of friends.  I mentioned here before how much I talked to him on the phone. I have come to realize that I wasn’t just filling his time so that he wasn’t lonely, but my own as well. I need to put myself out there in the world a little more. Twenty years from now I don’t want my children to feel the need to call me incessantly because they don’t want me to be lonely, or God forbid because they are lonely. I want them to learn from this and keep friends in their lives. I also hope they will learn from me to find the strength within them that my Mom’s death gave me, but to find it now when they are younger.

Finally, reading the story of George Bell on Sunday gave me pause for thought. Instead of running from the produce aisle in tears, I think next time I see what appears to be an elderly person alone, I will engage them in conversation. I’ve done it before, and maybe mentioned it before, but I had an elderly friend. Someone with family, but family that was disinterested at best. Her name was Hattie Klipp, she died at 104. My kids remember her from when they were much, much younger. Hattie was very dear to me, a substitute grandmother in many ways. I met her when I worked in a grocery store. Lesson three, this one comes from me. You never know what gift you will find when you reach out to someone else. I highly recommend it.

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