MountainWoman Silver Art Blog
As an artist, I have followed a path similar to that of many others, especially women. A degree in art, dreams of making it as a "real" artist, trying to integrate adult responsibilities like family and day jobs with creativity. I recall the head of my art department telling a class, "If a woman wants to make it in the art world, she should not get married." At times I have agreed with him. Now, I say, it all depends on your spouse.
I spent four years in a university where art professors believed in grounding a student in basics like drawing, design, and color. My first two years began each day with a two-hour drawing class five days a week. The rest of each day and the weekend, we carried around sketchbooks filling them with images wherever we happened to be. Those two years also included classes in design, anatomy, and art history. We were not allowed to take a painting class until our junior year. For the last two years, I took numerous painting and sculpture classes but the instruction always followed classical, traditional guidelines. We were told if we wanted to paint in a wild, expressionistic manner, we could do so after we graduated.
In the first 10 years after college, I painted representational portraits, still lifes, and landscapes while holding down a fulltime day job in something totally unrelated to art. I did charcoal and pastel portraits at festivals. I longed to be a fulltime artist earning my living at what I loved. I entered shows, got into some, was rejected from many, sold a few paintings, but mostly, my art earnings were from portraits. As I was drawing and painting as realistically as possible, my work while competent, did not stand out from paintings by other artists who painted in a similar style.
Like many women artists, I always felt I needed more training. Through the years I used my vacations to attend week-long workshops with John Howard Sanden, Albert Handell, and Daniel Greene, hoping to improve my portrait-painting abilities. In addition, I studied sewing and free-motion embroidery techniques for three years with a wonderful quilt artist, Georgia Bailey (died 2007). My most recent workshop was a week with Carrie Brown learning how to paint and decorate papers to include in collages.
One day in the 1980s, sick of the portrait I was working on, I picked up a fat chunk of charcoal and using the side of the chunk, I made a big curvy mark on a drawing pad on my easel. Thirty minutes later, I had finished my first expressionistic piece. I continued to do commissioned portraits, but from then on, I was making these strange, symbolistic paintings which I hid away for fear of ridicule from anyone who saw them. I found myself doodling on notepads or scraps of paper during meetings, while waiting to see a doctor, even in church. Curiously, when I opened a real sketch pad, I would revert to my earlier training trying to render a likeness of someone or something. On these scraps, I freely distorted what I saw or drew from my own imagination. Some of these doodles became finished, symbolistic paintings usually containing a central figure and usually expressing some emotion I was experiencing at the time.
Years went by with divorce, relocation, change of job; the stash of paintings grew but remained hidden. I continued doing portraits in my spare time. 1988 was a momentous year for me. I grew to trust a man I was dating and one day, showed him about 20 of these symbolistic paintings. He asked questions about the symbolism, how I was feeling when I painted certain images, and why had I never shown this work to anyone. At that point, I had the courage to look at his face. He actually had tears in his eyes. There is nothing like validation from someone whose opinion you value and trust. This man told me he wanted to be a part of the development of the art I was doing. In 1989, he became my "patron of the arts" giving me the opportunity to work as an artist full time and explore the kind of art I wanted to do.
In the last 20 years, I've painted, I've created art quilts, and I've completed a year of graphic design training using computer programs like Photoshop, Freehand, and Illustrator. Now things have come together and I find I am integrating everything I've learned into the pieces I create. I've become a mixed-media artist. I paint on fabric for quilts and I sew on painted canvases. I applique objects to my canvases and paper as well as to quilts. I work out designs using computer programs and I still doodle on scraps of paper.
Making quilts for 10 years has been a powerful influence on the way I work. I use even bolder colors now in my paintings and I have learned to really enjoy "process" instead of hurrying to finish. The years pass regardless of how you fill them. Mine have been a fantastic tapestry full of color and drama.
__ Mountain Woman Silver, 2009