Growing up, I remember walking a trail to my grandparents house that was “up the hill” from my house. I would let gravity take me down into the shallow ditch that was on the start of my journey and then scamper up the other side, trying to stay on the beat down pathway. I was enthralled with the sights, sounds, and possibilities of finding treasures around me. I would make it up the grand hill and go into the warm house that smelled of peas cooking on the stove, and see the fresh tomatoes on the newspaper on the floor. My grandmother would give me an old tablecloth and plastic dishes, and I would go through the outdoor “long room” that smelled musty and had a sink with gritty lava soup where the farmers washed up before what they called “dinner” (lunch.) This led to the back porch where I would imagine I had my own little house.
Now that I am grown, I’m an artist. Nothing influences my painting more than this land, my childhood memories of the farm, and the people in my life. In every painting- whatever the subject- I think of them.
One example of this is my recent turnip painting. These were planted by my uncle in a patch near my house. I would drive by the rows of green stalks and notice the bright magenta color peeking through the dirt. I decided I would paint a gathering of these, and my husband went out with me to the garden. I walked around slowly and stood looking at the dirt and the vegetation, taking in a memory of the year before, where my whole family gathered to dig potatoes by hand in that same soil, and seeing how these turnips pushed up out of the dirt in a different way. I thought of my uncle out there on his tractor or old black Ford pick up with the tailgate down and hoe in hand as he cared for the plants. My husband looked up and said, “I thought you were going to paint some turnips.” I said, “I am.” What I meant was, I had already begun. It is always more than the shape and color. It is the life behind the subject that I want to capture.
Another example is in one of my still life paintings. When I was 5 years old, I had a homemade playhouse, made by my dad. It was constructed with plywood and old boards, complete with a “window” and shelves to hold my dishes. I would gather “herbs” (grass) and flour (sometimes actual flour, sometimes sand), and a pitcher of sorts with slightly muddy water in it and stir up delicious mud pies.
So when I was gathering materials for this still life demo at my fall retreat workshop, I started with a lovely copper pot but realized I needed something to go with it. I walked outside around the peaceful campground that fall morning to hunt for “just the right thing” to go with my creation. Memories from my childhood came back as I looked around nature. I remembered searching in the undisturbed cool air, with endless possibilities in front of me as I believed anything was possible. In the spirit of childhood belief, I picked up some large acorns, beautiful turning leaves, and set up a still life that I named, Acorn Soup.
The subject is not the only thing influenced by my childhood. In every painting, whether a commissioned portrait, or plein air, I try to capture the essence of the person or place- the potential of the subject- to show the viewer that in every scenario there is a story and a purpose that has been going on, and is continuing to unfold.
I haven’t always been an artist. At least not technically. I initially started out as a physical therapist, where I was able to use my attention to detail, sensitive eyes and love for people to evaluate and instruct them in how to get stronger. Now I do the same things as I teach art workshops.
I am a full time artist now, and I still live near that hill I climbed as a young girl to go see my grandmother. Now I climb the shallow hill behind my house to my grown up playhouse that my dad helped build (also known as my art studio) and paint what I call “Memories to Hold On To.”