Friday, November 29, 2013

The Accidental Artist

I've been wanting to blog for a very long time but like many people I kept wondering "who on earth would ever be interested in reading about me?".  As I sat pondering this question it occurred to me that my life is certainly not the norm.  Every morning I wake up and wonder what the day will bring? What will I create...or not create...and who will walk through my studio door today?  Since finding myself in this crazy business of being an artist, I have had many extraordinary experiences that I would like to share with you.  I am not the most regular, consistent person.  I am an artist!  So, a warning; I paint when I am inspired and I will write when I am not painting so if you are following this blog please enjoy but I am not on a calendar!  It is my hope that maybe you will get to know me just a bit better and maybe have a glimpse of what it is like to be an artist.

How did I become an artist in the first place?

In January of 1994, in the spur of the moment, I decided to take a semester off from University where I was majoring in psychology.  My sudden withdrawal may seem like an impulsive decision, as I had been told many times that since I was in a wheelchair I needed to get an education. I did have a full scholarship, so I planned to return to school in the fall.  You can imagine my surprise when I returned to register and found out I would have to start all over again as a first year student even though I was in third year!  Forget that!!  I had moved back home with my parents in January and spent the year just floating, travelling and wandering aimlessly trying to discover exactly what it was I was meant to be doing!  At this point, all I knew was that psychology was NOT IT!!!

In December everything changed.  Karen Hersey walked into my life.  She came to visit my Mom at our large log home in the country and as soon as she saw the place she said "I want to live here!".  We all had a good chuckle...little did we know that she soon would be doing just that!  On that day, Karen offered to teach me to paint and I politely replied "No thank you, I have absolutely no talent when it comes to painting and drawing."  When I was a little girl my mom put me in art lessons and bought all the supplies but I didn't like it.  I had no interest in taking art in school or university.  My Mom had always kept me very busy with creative projects, she taught me to be a custom seamstress...I made all my own clothes but painting was not my thing!  Karen was determined and in the end I took her up on her offer to teach me to paint simply because I had nothing better to do at the time!  It wasn't until years later that I would fully understand what a life changing moment that was.

Karen had just moved to Calgary.  She was a professional artist and teacher for 30 years but due to health issues she wasn't painting and had plenty of time to teach me.  She was a strict teacher let me tell you!  She insisted on abiding by the rules of fine art so I had to learn to paint the way the Masters painted. I could have searched high and low for an art teacher with Karen’s qualification as very few artists are capable of passing on the knowledge that she had and she just fell in my lap by accident!  Our weekly lessons began with a sketchbook and pencil as she trained me in endless art theory.  She handed me a three inch art history book and said "read this".  Ya...right!  Considering I wasn't interested in painting in the first place, she was starting to lose me and finally she handed me a paintbrush!  Hallelujah!  From that point on there was no turning back.  In 30 years of teaching, Karen said she had never had a student that could sign and sell her very first painting (I never did sell it…it’s still here in my studio) so we were on to something here….

At the time, Karen was living alone in downtown Calgary and one night while she was asleep in her bed, she was robbed.  She awoke in the morning to find her front door wide open and her jewellery stolen.  Obviously she was very shaken and since we had the room, we offered her a place to stay with us.  What a gift for both of us!  Our art lessons not only continued but it was non-stop art!  We had the great fortune to also have the support from my Mom, who cooked for us and gave us the opportunity of not having to think about anything BUT art.  We discussed art from the time we awoke in the morning, over coffee and then painted in the afternoon and the discussions never stopped until we went to bed.  It was a very bohemian lifestyle…great food, great conversation, great books, great music and of course great painting!  Karen and I set up our studio in the living room and we painted side by side every day.  We went out sketching and painting on location on the beautiful prairies. I remember the day Karen took me to the art supply store for the first time. I was so excited that I spent $850 on my first trip since I had now decided that I was going to be a professional artist(it took me years to use up all those supplies)!  Karen was a strict teacher but I became a student obsessed and I drove her crazy with my incessant questions!  Every morning she would wake up and wonder "what am I going to teach her today?".  Yup, this indeed is what I am meant to be doing with my life!  My poor family was in shock (except for my Mom and Dad who have always been my biggest supporters).  Can you imagine?  The plan was to get a university degree and now I’m going to be an artist??  Who knew?  I certainly had no idea what I was getting into but one thing is for sure, it has not been dull!  Karen’s health began to return and I was on my way to becoming an artist...and still was a magical time!

Photo of Karen & I at her art show in Invermere, BC.  July, 2005.  I was her guest artist!

My first painting!  Tie Lake, 16"X20", oil on linen

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