Saturday, December 28, 2013

7. I Have White Hair Because I Have Dogs

Watercolor painting by Renny Spencer
I HAVE white hair because I have dogs.

WHEN I was much younger I dreamed of having EVERYTHING. To be an artist- to have a family- to own a house with a picket fence (a brown one though) with lots of dogs. So I went out and got them. At one point our house held a husband and me, 7 children (3 of them foster kids), 2 Bullmastiffs, a Samoyed, a Dalmatian, a Papillon, and 11 cats.  I joined a Canasta group, made Halloween costumes, and ran a home business selling woodcraft. I bought boots and make-up and hair color.

AS TIME went on, I tweaked the details of my dream. I had to choose between my art and my husband, and (after 20 years deciding), chose my art. I exchanged the mortgage for monthly rental in a series of small but charming homes, and struggled to keep on top of things while raising 4 daughters. I started giving up things that weren't important. Who needs TV?

THE GIRLS eventually left home, and my career and my dogs kept me busy. I felt I could finally get a studio away from home and found the perfect spot. It was September 1st, 2001. I took the plunge. Two weeks later the bombing in New York shook the world, the recession hit and I didn't have a commission for a year.

I KEPT my studio. But I gave up everything that wasn't home, food or vet bills. I stopped driving to other places- gas was too expensive. I gave up wearing make-up and finally, I stopped coloring my hair.  I don't miss any of it.

RECENTLY, I've switched my focus to dog portraits, and business is booming. I paint every day. Two of my daughters are living here in town, and I have a grandson. I still don't have television or a cell-phone, and I walk to work. I love my family, my friends, my dog, and even my white hair.

LIFE has weeded out the nonsense and left me with the stuff of dreams.


Saturday, May 25, 2013

6. Hello Darkness My Old Friend


You know how a song can take you back in time? "Sounds of Silence," by Simon and Garfunkel, is an express train to 1966 – 9th grade at Exeter Union High School, sitting at a real art desk. The art teacher has asked us to listen to the record player and I've just been introduced to The Moody Blues. Rock mixed with classical. Genius.

Our 1st assignment was to paint a song, using only the words. So many exciting pieces were created – "I fell into a burning ring of fire" – "Imagine all the people, living life in peace" – "These boots are made for walkin'." I wish I could still see them.

I was so happy, and so proud to be part of that creative world. And, thanks to sympathetic teachers who gave me passes to get out of algebra class, I was rescued from boredom. I was given free rein to create what I wanted, using clay, wood, paint, beads. I made a green leather vest and knee-high moccasins to match.

I belonged. I carried my art around, in my bag and in my heart. And I've never stopped.