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Sunday, April 1, 2012

A is for Art

A is for Art

As a child, one of the earliest passions I discovered was art.   I loved sitting down at the kitchen table and drawing landscapes and animals with a pencil and paper.  My pictures adorned the family refrigerator as well as the walls in my room, my notebooks, and anywhere else I could hang them.

One year, for Christmas, when I was about 9 or 10, I asked for a Jon Gnagy Learn to Draw Set.  I remember that Christmas very well.  I started right away drawing with the charcoal pencils and erasers in the sketch pad that came with it.  I was in my element, and was having a ball.

I loved horses, and was never satisfied with the drawings I made.  But my parents must have thought I had talent, because one day, after I drew the picture from the ad for Art Instruction Schools, my parents sent it in and soon we had a visit from the salesman for the course. I was 10 years old.

When the course came in the mail, I was thrilled.  The first few lessons were pretty easy, but I was learning about form, shadows, and textures.  It was fun. 

The course gradually grew more difficult, of course, and soon I had graduated from pencils, which I felt comfortable with, to opaque and transparent washes.  This was a little more difficult for me.  I understood the concepts of adding water to thin the paint, but my brush strokes were clumsy and sometimes clumpy too.  I grew a little frustrated.

This was around the time I began high school, and other interests competed with my art.  I was in the school band, playing tenor saxophone, and had to practice every day.  I discovered boys, and had several unrequited crushes on boys at school.  My art slipped another inch or two down the appreciation scale.  My junior and senior years in school were a blur of activities, and my art plummeted to an all-time low.  I rarely picked up a pencil to doodle, let alone draw or paint.  Making posters for school was the extent of my art at that time.

My dad was encouraging me to concentrate on secretarial and accounting classes in school, because he believed that I could get a better job after school if I had that knowledge.  My mom agreed to a point, but I think she still wanted me to follow my prior dream of becoming an artist. 

When I started college, I met my future husband, and after a year of once every few months dating, we were married.  We moved to Zion, Illinois, so Dennis could finish his stint with the Navy.  I quickly grew bored with sitting at home with just a radio and tiny tv.  I took up the art again.  I never did complete the course, although I do have the books.

When we moved back to Kansas, I was busy raising the first of 4 children.  I drew little cartoons and pictures for Josh’s entertainment.  Then I heard about the Clifton Art Buffs, a local art club.  I was excited and joined right away.  That was in 1974.

I remember my first oil painting.  I painted it on the back porch of our house.  It was a landscape with a river running through some hills and a crooked tree standing in the foreground.  I was so proud of that painting, which I believed to be completed.  I had it framed at the furniture store and took it to a meeting of the Art Buffs to show it off.

One of the hardest things to learn about art is how to take critiques.  I was absolutely crushed when one of the older artists made the comment “Well, you’ve got a good start with this painting.  What more do you think it needs?  What will make it look finished?”  I looked at her with mouth gaping open and couldn’t say a word.  I was almost in tears.  Good start?  What more does it need?  Oh my goodness. I’ve failed!

I took that painting home and put in the closet.  I never did “finish” it.  I keep it to remind me of that day and that I should always look at my work objectively, because there will always be someone who doesn’t share my pride in my work.

That someone does not include my mother, however.  Of all my fans, she is the most devout.  She has an art gallery of my work hanging all over her house.  I’ve rarely seen a purchased picture on her walls, except a couple she has received as gifts.  My paintings are in every room of the house.

I have been president of the Clifton Art Buffs for over 10 years now.  We don’t even bother holding election of officers anymore.  It’s not because we love being officers.  It’s more that no one else will do it.  We are struggling to keep the club alive because the older members are retiring or dying, and the younger artists in the community have daytime jobs that keep them from attending the meetings.  We tried briefly moving to evenings, but some of the older members come from a long distance away and do not drive at night.  So until someone suggests we elect new officers, I guess I’ll keep on keeping on.

I love to draw with pencils, colored pencils, pastels, and paint with oils and watercolors.  I have acrylic paints as well, but just have not used them enough to feel comfortable with them.  Oil painting is my favorite medium for working at home, but colored pencils and watercolors are the easiest to do away from home.

I could write a book about the different mediums and techniques that I have learned.  But I’ll save that for a different post. 

A for me must be art.


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