Thursday, October 16, 2008

who are these people and what are they doing in my attic?

It's been quite a few days since my last post, the final Arrowmont class day photos and comments. Since getting back home I've been quite involved with a massive "edit"--as my husband calls it--of things accumulated for the past forty years. These very important things are like those that possibly many folks have lurking in their attics or closets... letters, photos, memorabilia of events past.

OK, so have a quick trip down my memory lane. I'll start with this photo from 1966. Who are these people? I'm not quite sure. I'm thinking one of the lovely girls is someone who I went to elementary school with, who's family moved to another state during her early adolescence, and with whom I kept in touch sporadically through high school. Maybe she sent me a picture of herself and her date, and a double-date pair, taken before the senior prom. I know it was before because how could any of those hair dos survive the next few hours of partying?!?

I was in 4-H club in the little rural elementary school I attended in the 1950s. Here's the cover of a cook book I'd kept from those times. I remember using the biscuit recipe and the cream of tomato soup recipe during my early cooking experiences. Since I don't do the cooking thing very much any more, I'd have to say those youthful instructions didn't age too well with me.

The attic at our house has been the place to deposit those items that I didn't have either the time, energy, or desire to sort through. Several boxes of the collection came from my Mother's house after she passed away five years ago. They'd been out of sight/out of mind in the closet of the bedroom I had when I live there. Since we sold her house after her passing, I brought the things home with me to sort. Because I was so sad when she died I didn't have the heart to go through more memories from childhood and adolescence at that point. But now the time's right, for many reasons--not just because my husband is nudging me along.

The editing included tossing out notes from past art history classes along with term papers and other class project work. Many of the term papers were written hastily--who'd have thought I'd keep them for forty+ years? I glanced through several before throwing them out.

I've also gone through four portfolios of drawings, class studies, paintings I've saved for the past four decades. I threw away most but kept a few drawings from each point in my life. We didn't have an art teacher in our public schools. In fact, my first experience in an art class came during my second quarter in college. Even so, I'd always been considered the "class artist" when in elementary and high school although looking at early drawings I can't imagine why! My Mother was quite artistic herself but she didn't actively practice making art. There were several drawings in the house that she'd done when in her twenties--copies of other art works. So she was very interested in my budding art abilities. I believe that those two things, home and school recognition, were what gave me the feeling that I was destined to be an artist.

Now, looking back through those saved "art works" I realize that it has been mostly just dogged persistence that's kept me on the path I'm following. I certainly don't see a spark of giftedness in the early work. But I see a lot of work. I did many, many drawings through those years before I began to have art classes. Most of the work was copy work--I probably did hundreds of drawings of hair styles copied from Breck girls shampoo ads in Seventeen magazine during the early 1960s. I also copied photos of friends and families, portraits in pencil or charcoal. There were drawings of JFK and Jacqueline Kennedy in the early 1960s; Ray Charles showed up, as well. I did very little observational drawing, most things were either copy or were from imagination.

Discouraging to see how little natural "talent" I really have, based on those early things. Yet, I'm realizing that dogged persistence really does make a difference. I thought I was an artist, by golly, and others around me thought I was an artist... and so I've lived my life that way for the past many years. The rewards I've gotten from this pursuit are great and I hope to have quite a number more years to travel this path.

In the meantime, cleaning house has its own rewards! More space to put more artwork--maybe not so much of it as bad as what's contained in these trash bags.


  1. hehe...I know that feeling. Happy editing.

  2. The photo is priceless! Hope you didn't pitch it, even though you don't know who they are, it is a true 'period piece.' I have also just been brave enough to throw out a lot of old 'art' - not wanting to have kids someday have to do it and say, 'what made her think she was an artist?'
    When the time is right, memory lane is a fun trip...

  3. Wow! I remember those Breck girls ads, wasn't their hair SILKY! Drawing from observation, that was not something I ever did either, until I was in Art School, and in the 1970s even there it was not big. I copied comic book images of girls.

  4. Wow, do I know this feeling. Been there- done that...
    Enjoy your time journey while it lasts.