This post is going to take a slight side step from my usual path of talking about my work or travels. I am about to philosophize at length so feel free to pass on this one if you aren’t in the mood or short on time, I will not take offense.
I owe this post to a playful challenge from a friend to take 7 days and list 7 favorite books on my personal Facebook page. My 1st instinct was to do it because it sounded fun, but changed my mind and decided not to play. No, it doesn’t mean I don’t support literacy, or care about my friend, or anything else. I just don’t tend to copy&paste, play the game, take the test, or find out ‘the real truth’by clicking ‘next’.
I have a pretty fair idea of who I am at this point in my life. I know I have a huge list of things I truly love like art, and beauty, and truth, and love, and light, and kindness. I know I have a shorter list of things I hate like cancer and dishonesty and loss and hate and emotional manipulation, just to name few. I celebrate the fact that my love list is longer than my hate list. I tend to talk about the good list and shun the bad one. As a librarian I absolutely support literacy, books, writing, and all tangential topics of enrichment of the human spirit.
That being said, I’m going to indulge myself and talk through one of my personal revelations of the past few weeks. I think I know I have always wanted to be an artist. Some may say that I am already an artist. OK, that can be another discussion another day. I do often get asked when I started drawing. I usually laugh and say that as a child I would sit in a corner and color to stay out of trouble. That is only a partial truth.
Let’s start with the book challenge. I can’t do it, I am too busy over thinking it. I couldn’t begin to pick 7 books that represent my tastes, or what might have influenced me. I would need to qualify a moment in my life, an event, an emotion, an interest … so where would I start? My bookshelves from the time I could read would reveal a golden book sitting aside a zoology textbook, and couldn’t begin to make sense. What is the common thread? Maybe it should just be a fun thing, but it started me thinking.
Another friend of mine wrote me earlier in the week because he saw the cover of the book I just finished illustrating and said, “I’m immediately reminded of the paintings Wesley Dennis did for Marguerite Henry’s many horse and dog books.” It hit me like a ton of bricks. The common thread is the illustrations.
I looked up Wesley Dennis and ran down the list of books that came up and realized I had read them all. I had owned most of them and read them over and over growing up. Horses, dogs, foxes, donkeys, and then I moved on to anything animal related. I wanted to be a zoologist, then a veterinarian, and took all of the pre-med courses because I thought it was about the science. I considered medical illustration, and eventually cartooning and wound up illustrating manufacturing catalogs for industrial hardware for 20 years. My next career was in Library science and as a cataloger I would spend way too long processing the books with illustrations, especially children’s books. I am a visual person. I wanted to paint Misty… and Golden Sovereign … and Brighty of the Grand Canyon. I wanted to be Dennis and Froud and Muth and N.C.Wyeth and Pyle and Pinkney and a dozen other illustrators that made stories come to life.
When I was a toddler my greatest joys were to sit in a corner and watch the dust float in the beams of light, or on the back steps watching the light change the colors of the yard. Now, when I look around me I am always painting. What I mean is, I am always painting in my mind. Always. I see the world in the fluid motion of continual analysis. The motion can be unnerving so I try to capture everything I see in visual images or illustrations of that precise moment in time. I have spent my life trying to capture fleeting bits of color, light and movement and falling short because it all moves too fast. Plein Aire painting tries to capture the impression -tries to slow down the speed of the image in an effort to remember the moment. A photograph captures the exact moment mechanically and allows me to hold that image still with hopes of painting a picture of it as filtered through me.
I think I may be at a point where the pieces are all coming together, finally. While I have always thought of myself as an illustrator it never felt like it had the credibility as that of calling myself an artist and the struggle is to come to grips with the terminology itself. I wanted to illustrate the story that is my life. I don’t know where to go with this thinking or with my next steps. Perhaps this is merely the next step of a woman stepping forward in faith.