An Artful Life

Can you imagine a life without art? Not me.

For, as long as I can remember, art has been a major part of my life, beginning with the Crayola crayons that were on my school supply list each year. The anticipation of a new box, the hope that maybe this would be the year that my mother would spring and get me the biggest size—the set of 64–was enough to make me do a happy dance.

John Singer Sargent’s “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit.” Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Oh, yes! I’ll never forget the scent and waxy feel of the colors—Magenta, Blue Bell, Burnt Sienna, Carnation Pink, and Violet Red. For me, it was the best thing about the end of summer. The joy that art brings, and the anticipation of creating new art projects—was mine for the taking. Ah, happiness. Ah, hope. Which springs eternal, after all.

School helped form the foundation for my love of art. In grade school, we took field trips to the city, visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Guggenheim.  I was always drawn to the Impressionists, though I also came to love Victorian Classicism while seeing a special exhibit at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Art could be found in my home. My father collected paintings. Some were originals of lesser-known artists; others were replicas. I loved them all except one, a portrait by a well-known artist that hung opposite the door to my bedroom. It was of a solemn woman with deep, soulful eyes. She terrified me to no end.

With time, my father acquired so many paintings, that we ran out of places to hang them, so they were stacked on the wall, all the way to the ceiling, just inches apart, much like you’d see in an art gallery.

I acquired this serene painting years ago from a local artist, Maichuy.

When I went to college in the Boston area, I took classes in art history and fell in love with the work of John Singer Sargent. You can’t truly appreciate his art until you’ve seen it for yourself at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. There, you’ll see one of my favorites, “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit.” Sargent used a canvas so enormous (87 x 87 inches or 222 x 222 cm), that it’s practically life size, making you feel as if you’ve just walked into the room and encountered Mr. Boit’s sweet, enchanting daughters, innocently at play.

Here’s a portrait I painted while in college, post-toilet.

I love to draw, though I’m far from good at it. While in college, I enrolled in classes in oil and acrylic painting. You could tell that my professor was frustrated with me. I was awful at painting the models that posed for us each week, and the professor would push me to find my inner passion, as well as the right perspective, so that I could make my paintings come alive. I kept trying and trying, to no avail. Until one day, I was painting in my little apartment. So small was it, I propped my easel in the scant kitchen and the only thing I could paint was the miniscule bathroom that was just off the kitchen.

And something clicked. I poured my all into painting a still-life of the bathroom, at least that which was visible from the kitchen, the sink and part of the toilet. And when I took it to class, anxiously awaiting my professor’s reaction, to my astonishment, he was pleased.

“You’ve got it!” he exclaimed.

I was dumbfounded. A sink and a toilet had contributed to my art in a way that nothing else had! It was perplexing, but, who was I to question progress? Which just goes to show you:  you never know what you’re going to find in a toilet (and a sink)! As a result of my effort, I finished the class with flying colors. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Through the years, I’ve continued to dabble in painting. These days, my home is my palette. I paint, I stencil, I take photographs—another of my father’s fascinations—and I seem to be following in his footsteps when it comes to acquiring art.

For, I cannot resist! I don’t care who the artist is, if I fall in love with their work, I’ll find a way to add it to my collection.  It seems whenever I go to an street festival, community fair or to the annual Harvest Festival held each fall around here, I gravitate to the art. My friend, Gale, who often goes with me, gets exasperated by how much time I can spend looking at paintings and other works of art.

Recently added to my collection is this original painting by Sally Simmons.

Most recently, while in Seattle, I visited Pike Place Market, which is known as the place to shop for produce, fish and the like. But, it has become so much more, over the years, selling all kinds of local art. While there, I met a woman, Sally Simmons, who uses watercolor and her imagination, to create brightly-colored, whimsical paintings. A couple were of owls, which are a favorite of mine. (Just look at the banner atop my blog!)

I lingered awhile over her exquisite art, that seemed to sparkle with rich colors dancing before my eyes, and I agonized over whether to buy an original piece, or a less expensive, smaller copy. The colors on the copy weren’t as vibrant, so in the end I bought the original and Sally could tell it was going to a good home, seeing how I “oohed” and “ahhed” over her paintings, and wished I could have taken them all home with me.

Which is why, I cannot fathom a day without art. Can you? What does art mean to you?