|The Only Choice
Doing art is the breath of life
I like to call my style "magic realism" ? art so realistic you can look at a seascape and smell the salt air, or look at a portrait and see that little girl stepping out of the frame; and yet also art that evokes the magic in reality: the depth, emotion, and dimensionality that no photograph can achieve.
I often need to work from photographs, especially in doing children's portraits: life does not hold still to be painted. But the camera, a mechanism, can never catch the wonders that fill the camera in my mind. There is a limit to the richness of color in a photograph, a limit to the secrets a photograph can impart. I think what I most love doing is assembling everything in a still life but the flowers, and painting as much as I can before I go get the flowers, so I can paint them before they fade. Even in still lifes, decay and entropy triumph ? and only the rarest and most talented photographers can catch even a glimpse of the magic.
I can lose myself on the edge of walking into whatever painting I'm creating, but I don't try for a painting so realistic you could mistake it for a photograph. I prefer the literary definition of "magic realism" ? a reality so real it fuses scientific, physical reality and psychological human reality, with its thoughts, dreams, and imaginings. My paintings are a product of my yearning to stretch my horizons, to reproduce the magic I see.
When I started out, I began by examining still lifes, landscapes, and portraits made before photography. I realized that artists like Jan Vermeer and Rosa Bonheur had to train their minds to observe keenly and remember what they saw with precision. I trained myself to visually memorize images that fascinated me. I use photographs as only one reference. Look at a photo of a shadow falling across a lawn, then look at the lawn itself. In the photo, the shadow is a gray swath across a bright, uniform green. In reality, the lawn is full of colors, dark green, light green, pale moss, yellow, and the shadow's gray will show you lavenders and purples ? and, perhaps, the ghost of a lawn you played on as a small child or a lawn on which fairies dance.
Every painting I do is my child, and selling them isn't easy for me. I keep wanting to ask my clients to provide them good homes! I can't leave a painting alone until it glows with vibrancy and life, and looks realer than real. Love and passion go into each one, and what my husband calls "twiddle" ? the light little personal touches that feel so natural to paint and look so right for the work. The magic.
When I was three or four, my mother used to give me deposit slips to draw on in church. Before that, I must have shown some evidence of a fascination with drawing. She noticed it and used this method to keep me quiet when I was restless and squirmy. We always had a lot of magazine subscriptions, and those were the days when short fiction and famous illustrators dominated their pages. I was inspired by them, and would copy from them. By the time I went to school, I was drawing objects from life. And I drew all the time in the classroom. In the fourth grade, my teacher tacked up butcher paper across on wall, and asked me to draw some harvest and First Thanksgiving scenes on it. She gave me a box of soft pastels to do it. I was thrilled. It was my first experience with drawing in color! When Thanksgiving was gone, new butcher paper went up and I did a Christmas scene, complete with Santa coming down the chimney. Then one for Easter and spring. The nicest part of this was that she rolled up the paintings and gave them to my Dad, who saved them all his life.
By the time I was a high-school student, I was carting home regional show awards. At university I majored in art, with the idea of going into commercial art. At that time, my student advisor decided for me that commercial art was a dog-eat-dog endeavor, not suitable for women. He tried to talk me into becoming a teacher, which I declined. I majored in sculpture instead, which was what he taught.
Years later when I was ready to tackle the world, all my teachers were trying to convince me to become a waitress so that I could pursue my highest calling at night. I had other ideas ? I'm not sure they were better, but I wanted it all: a paycheck
doing art, a husband and children. I spent forty years as a commercial artist, honing my skills at illustration, fashion art, and hand-lettering. Meanwhile, I married, had two children, and continued my fine art painting in the evenings and weekends. I
won a "Best of Show" award for one of my paintings at a show in Tulsa that a friend talked me into entering. I was very surprised and pleased. Most of my painting was portraiture. For me in the 1960s, one commission would lead to another commission, and it was income that, in those days, was very welcome!
At the point of retirement, I decided that my teachers had most likely been right in the first place, and I had spent a lifetime career in a field that was more business than it was art. I enter several shows a year, and have won awards here and there. A cluster of award ribbons hangs on my studio wall. I have no gallery representation. I still have portrait commissions leading to other portrait commissions. I now love marketing my art on line ? I meet some wonderful people on the web who like my paintings. The energy, research, writing, and the actual painting charge my imagination with yet more creativity, a win-win situation. My friends, family, and clients, plus God's gorgeous world, inspire me with the inner joy I need to create.