I come from a family of creatives, Part 1

Many years ago I painted a painting for my mother that was an adaptation of another painting we have that I love. I switched out the people in that beloved painting to be my family. My aunt, who is an artist with international renown,  picked it up and said it was fabulous and asked how old I was when I painted it, and if I was 8… I had done it when I was 23.

How wonderful to have a mother that has loved all the creative endeavors my brother and I have pursued in a manner that was willing enough to display them proudly among her fabulous collection of art and artifacts from around the world… but, I cannot tell you just how intimidating it is to attempt a field where a family member has some skill. In addition to my aunt, there was my grandmother who was talented at so many things; poetry and music among them. My mother was considered a wonderful painter before she traded those skills for academia, my father is skilled at bead-work. I never took an art (of any form) class, mainly because when you already have super-great at it in your family, why try to copy it. I embraced their abilities, I was proud of their skills, they stunned me to silence with the things they created, and I basked in the glow of my friends who loved their work… but I left the making art to them.

So, we come back to my aunt.

And to my decision this year to do two things that fell way out of my comfort zone. I decided that my New Year Goals for 2013 was to 1) work on a painting with my aunt and to 2) record myself singing.

This past weekend was my first lesson for the painting. Since I mentioned to her this desire of mine I was tasked to come up with my idea for the painting and that once I had that in mind that I could begin.

I chose an idea based on this painting that is housed in the Art Institute of Chicago:

Something I want to call Arizona Gothic.

I arrived with family in tow to begin this process and my aunt and I sketched it out… She left me to my own devices while she turned to work with Squink on his painting… so, I made all sorts of horrendous mistakes… like using black pastels instead of charcoal to sketch my figures in.

This was bad because when my aunt told me to put in color the black mixed in and created these dark muddled colors. Thankfully, I picked up a rag and washed my pastel sketch out… though I lost some things that I had drawn in. I was able to get back most of what I had put in… so after being pushed to put in even more color (a prospect that filled me with dread) we reached this stage:

My aunt, being an ever challenging teacher (in the best of ways) had me start to color in the white space as we talked about perspective and how nice some of the spaces were and what would be the best ways to use them… My aunt kept mentioning how pleased she was with the painting and how fortunate I was to have it be as good as it was at this stage. Then looked me in the face and said to me in a manner that conveyed the seriousness of her words “The important thing now is to not ruin it”. We closed up her studio space and here is the last picture I took of it before we left (it looks different because it is in artificial light)

I don’t think I can express the horror of the next step… it has to be something I can so easily ruin… but there is such an intense giving up of self and ego in this project that I am trying hard not to let my deep fear of failure over run my approach to the painting. I am trying to take this slowly. I am trying to let the things she is teaching me sink in, I am learning from the mistakes I am making. I am striving to enjoy this process.

I will try hard to let go of my ego enough to share what this process is like… and in hopes of recording this experience for Squink when he is older and may be able to see a lesson in this letting go of self to pursue something that is intimidating

On a last note, one of the things I am enjoying in this process is working on paintings with Squink. Here is his painting so far:… he doesn’t like to draw so he may be a bit surprised when I make him come back to it on the next lesson.


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