Happy New Year – New Beginnings with a Look Back

With every new year brings new beginnings. A fresh snowfall to start the year is a welcome guest this morning. I have started plans and writing lists for 2010. I suppose I would call it cautious optimisim that all will be accomplished. Among other things I am working on a new artist statement. This, the result of a workshop I attended last month (I am tempted to say last year). The point of the artist statement as best I can understand is to explain yourself as an artist, a rather broad and vague definition. In some respects it means different things to different people, but then so does art. Regardless, it is something often asked for when submitting your artwork for jurying. When I was first writing mine I read that the statement should be very personal, unlike a resume. With that in mind, I dove in and wrote my first artist statement. While it is time to write a new one, my previous artist statement is to become a dedication because I cannot dismiss it as something no longer relevant or important. So as the new year begins, I want to share this once more for those of you who never read it so that I can begin taking those next steps…..

It almost seems a foolish thing, signing my initials to my paintings the way I once did as a child. But there is a full circle of events that have brought me from my childhood painting to here. Here to this place where painting is called my work, though it is also my passion. How fortunate I am to live such a dream, but how I got here carries a sadness that is forever my inspiration.

She had become ill, she had forgotten the simplest of things, and we were loosing her. We searched for answers, and even though we got them, it couldn’t change what was. After the longest of days and the briefest of time, my mother left us. I traveled the six-hour drive from my home in New Hampshire to my parent’s home in New Jersey more and more frequently as her time faded from us. I went from the full time work of Creative Director to working part-time and finally to resigning. I needed to be with my mother as much as I could; that was what was important. But in that time of transition something else happened. In the sadness, I needed to escape during those times when I sat waiting for the next long drive, the next visit, the next sign that life was so fragile. It was then I returned to painting; in that place I returned to a time when life was simple. It was my mother who took me back to painting. It was my mother who had always been my most ardent supporter. Because of that, there was something right and true about following such a dream.

While I was painting this picture of these gardens, a mother and daughter walked by. I thought it would add much to the picture to include them but I felt taking their picture to paint them in accuately would be an intrusion so, once home I looked for a picture of my mother and I. The figures in this painting are from that picture taken at the Ohio State Fair – we’ll leave the year out, that’s on a strictly need to know basis.

It also seems like a lifetime ago that I was a working as a photographer, a graphic designer, and a web designer raising our two boys with my husband. Each day was a full schedule of events emanating from some corner, or another. I’d longingly look at the class offerings at the local art center, wondering why they couldn’t offer them at midnight when I had time to attend. It all seemed unlikely that I would ever return to art, even though in my heart I had never left. I often wonder if you need to actually paint, to be an artist. Is seeing the beauty and wanting to paint it close enough? What I didn’t realize was that I actually was in training. My design work strengthened my composition skills, my photography work kept me aware of the landscape around me, and mostly – without even realizing the strength of it, my boys taught me patience and they kept the dreamer alive in me. For how can you teach your children to dream for themselves, when you have given up on dreaming?
Now, all these beautiful landscapes of New England, which I have been driving by for so many years, have become my subjects. Places I remember and rediscover have joined the list of things to paint, or things I have painted, perhaps more than once. I enjoy painting plein air in the good weather, and even occasionally in the winter as well. There is too much to take in with only a camera for eyes. The richness of color, and even the feeling of the hot sun or cool breeze can make it into a painting, if you stand there long enough.

I sometimes experiment with different subjects. I had an instructor tell me that if I keep changing subject matter, it will take me much longer to learn. I had another instructor tell me you have to love your practice. I like the second one better. So you will see different subjects popping into my body of work now and again. That is who I am too. I don’t study with a particular instructor; I don’t stick with all the rules (though some I like) but I visit museums whenever I can. I paint, and I dream, and I sign my paintings as a child might, always mindful that I’m lucky to have married a man whose last name also began with a B. And I am always grateful to hear the words, “your mother would be so proud of you.”