Sunday, November 2, 2014

Animal Pancakes and Elton John

IT'S 1970.  I left home. I'm 18 years old. And when I say "left" I mean running down the driveway, chased by my Dad, jumping in the bed of my friend's truck, and watching Dad grow smaller and smaller. And when I say "left" I mean jumping scared with both feet into a world of possibilities. I spent that night on the floor of Tina's bedroom, staring at the ceiling, never happier.

I STAYED with Tina's family until I graduated from High School a few months later, and then, having just painted a mural in the school gym for the large sum of $150, I finally began my journey by answering an ad for work in Yosemite National Park. I spent half of my total net worth on a pair of desert boots and a brown corduroy coat to match, confident that I was armed suitably for a new life.

MY FRIEND Janet drove me to the park. Neither of us had ever been there.  We pulled into Inspiration Point and looked at each other, speechless. As we drove towards Camp Curry I knew better than to hope- it was too good to be true. I could be living in the most beautiful place in the world. Then my first interview– I was told that if I could be back by tomorrow I could have the job. I was screaming before I got out the door. Janet and I held hands, jumping up and down, laughing and crying and hugging.

I MEANT to spend 6 months in Yosemite, but it turned into 2 amazing years. I learned about snow, animal pancakes, Elton John, friendship, and love. And, oh, I painted. Every chance I got. Living and painting in Yosemite ignited something in me that has burned for many years. Having experienced magic in the world once, you can never go back to a life without it. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Just Start

I CAN procrastinate like a pro! I know I'm doing it, I know I don't like to do it, and I even know how to stop doing it. Most times I shrug it off; I'm good with deadlines. But occasionally, and usually with a person portrait, it can go on for a tad too long for my comfort.

THAT'S WHEN I have to close my eyes and visualize this painting, called Lion Reading, which hangs in Kaweah Delta hospital, in Visalia, CA. I painted it 16 years ago, in 1998. I was still struggling with making my living as an artist after a divorce, and also raising a 7- year old daughter, Bronwen, no money, not sure when the next commission would come. So I designed this 8'x8' painting, to present to the hospital in hopes of selling it.

I GOT a good part of the painting done, but when it came to painting Lion's eyes I froze. He's telling an exciting story so his eyes needed to be bright and opened, but NOT crazed. He's not going to EAT the young animals! 

A DAY went by- then another. A week. Finally, frustrated by my lack of confidence, Bronwen came up to me, handed me a paintbrush, fully loaded, with that look on her face that meant I know all things, and said "Just start. You'll figure it out." Yeah, that's my girl. 

I DID start, I did figure it out, and I sold it to the hospital for a whopping $5000, enough money to allow me to take a breath and go forward. And today, right after I post this, I am going to get up from the computer, load a paintbrush and "just start."

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

8. Why I Use an Orange Ground Color

YOU THOUGHT I had artistic insight and esoteric jargon to explain why I use orange as a base color. Maybe you hoped to learn about color theory or how color conveys light.

I COULD SAY it's because it creates movement in a painting, or that it suggests a wood-block or stained-glass feeling. I could say it makes the other colors pop, or that it directs your eyes around the painting.  I wouldn't be lying.

BUT THE straight-up truth: I have, in my whole life, never loved a coat as much as I loved this one. Whenever I wore this coat, I felt like I was soaring above the trees on my way to school.  It was my Superman cape, my butter on toast, a puppy hug.

NOW, 50 years later, I paint in clothes covered in acrylic paint. I have a closet full. But, once in a while, I'll be pushing green paint along an orange canvas when a little jolt goes through me and I'm wearing my magic coat. And I'm soaring.