Growing up, I dreamed of being an archaeologist and a painter. I couldn’t imagine doing any else in life and when I failed Earth Science with the dour widow, Mrs. Papandreou, in seventh grade, I was crushed. She burst my bubble of traveling to archaeological digs in exotic locales, and discovering buried treasures and lost civilizations. I couldn’t for the life of me imagine why learning about dirt and soil was important. Nevertheless, she failed me and called me ‘insolent’ when I complained about my failing grade. I lived in Athens, Greece with my family in the seventh, eighth and ninth grade, so my love and passion for ancient history, the classic myths, and the Aegean were fueled and well-fed despite the failing grade.
In high school, I discovered fashion design and spent hours drawing fashion models in beautiful clothing. I soon tired of that as I hated sewing and Home Economics, and went on to drawing faces which led to painting portraits. In college, I studied business and hated every minute. You just can’t put a round peg into a square hole, but my father insisted I learn about business so I could get a job out of college. I still painted during that time of my life, but the pieces ended up in a box I kept under the bed in my dorm room. I created drawings for friend’s poetry and ‘book cover’s which fed me artistically, but…it wasn’t enough.
As a mother of young children, I remember looking forward to our summer and winter vacations. We lived in Belgium where we’d remain for thirteen years, so exotic travel was again a part of my life. My kids drew, painted, we visited European museums, art galleries, and had wonderful adventures with boxes, sheets and kitchen chairs at home. We made up stories and I helped my kids put together their beautiful little books. My children, who were talented artists as children, are amazing writers. They are the first readers of my writing today.
It was during their high school days that I began to think about an art career.After a few painting workshops, I was encouraged to exhibit my work and from there, I went from one exhibit to another, garnering awards as I went. I was one of the happiest people on the planet because I was doing what I loved and was passionate about. Then, I discovered Julia Cameron’s seminal book, The Artist’s Way.
I’d kept a little diary as a young girl and another in high school, but I became a journaling devotee after reading ‘The Artist’s Way’ and ‘Vein of Gold’. Every morning, I wrote three pages long-hand, and discovered writing. Julia either put the kabosh on my art career or jump started my writing career! I’m not sure what happened, but I began to look at my paintings with different eyes. The pieces didn’t feel or look finished to me. I didn’t understand it. They weren’t ‘saying’ all I wanted to express and had inside of me.
The images of the paintings of cedar and cypress trees are three of seven pieces from a series I did for a show in Brussels, Belgium. I was obsessed with these trees. I couldn’t wait to begin painting. My talented artist/writer friend, Sandy, was renting an old barn for the fall and winter months and asked me to join her. We froze in that cold barn, and I finished the series, but again, they didn’t feel finished. Sandy suggested I write thoughts on each piece in pencil with my left hand (I’m right-handed). Brilliant! They finally ‘spoke’ to me. If you look closely, you might be able to make out the disjointed writing on the three pieces.
This series was the crossroad for me and the birth of my writing career. Our brains are amazing. My life has taken a zigzag route, up and down, and sometimes I’ve lost the plot for a brief period of time, but when I look back with CREATIVE eyes…I was absolutely led to writing books.
I still draw and paint a bit on the weekends, but not much. For now, I’m happy to paint the walls of my old house, the old cafe chairs in the patio, and doodle in my journal. I’ve found words have replaced my paint brush and I’m happy. As the fall launch date of my historical novel, A Decent Woman, approaches, I find myself a bit nostalgic for the days when I was an artist, a life I know well. Maybe I needed self-soothing in anticipation of launching my debut book which is a real unknown.
Yesterday, I shared images of my paintings on my Facebook author page. Family, friends and new friends left wonderful comments for me. One of my favorite authors and an amazing writing teacher, Jack Remick, wrote, “the painter in you will insist on writing scenes–verbal into visual. Images.”
Wow, it made perfect sense to me. He added a quote:
” L‘oeuvre existe dans ses images.”— Diderot. The work exists in its images. Thank you, Jack. So true, so true.