Updated: Mar 21
Why does it feel so good?
Art was my first love. Or first bridge to self-love. I discovered it during high school when my guidance counselor grimly sat me down and broke the bad news about how my terrible attendance and cutting classes was going to impact senior year. I had no “sequence” and needed to double up on gym and another subject to earn my diploma. I picked art. I don’t know why. I think my choices were limited. I actually took creative writing and creative drawing and studio art that year as electives, and I was in Heaven.
The art teacher at Oyster Bay High School set up still life displays and provided different methods for us to explore all kinds of things. We were allowed to listen to what ever music we wanted to in art class. I liked where the art room was located and it felt good to be in there. I should mention our schools and art program were well funded and we were encouraged to try different mediums, we had every available material with in reach. She was able to provide us with an art education. (They don't call it the Gold Coast for nothing)
That’s the one thing leads to another story, my art teacher Miss Crowley was telling me how talented I was and how I had a gift. This may never have happened if I hadn’t first missed all those days and refused to go to school. She was the only person asking me if I had any plans to go to college. At that particular time I was planning to drive across the country to California when I graduated with a van load of friends. I had no intentions of going to college and no money for such things. She helped me to apply to several art schools and even helped me to understand the financial aid process. I was skeptical but I went along with what she said maybe just humor her. Maybe just because I was stuck in the class anyway and had nothing to lose. I didn’t care so to speak.
I started to get portfolio interview requests, this is when as an art student you have to go to the art school and show your collection. Art school is less about SAT scores and more about what you produce. I actually had saved several items from over the years. I had a wax painting I had made in 8th grade, it was a panda in a bamboo forest, and I’d given it to my aunt. I asked her if I could take it to my appointments. She allowed me that. There was a fairy painting I’d made. I had luckily also given that to my aunt, it hung on her bedroom wall. I also had a few other pieces over the years I had done and hunted them down. Miss Crowley gave me a big black leather portfolio case to take into the city to the Fashion Institute of Technology. My mom rode the train into the city with me. I wasn’t sure if I was embarrassed or excited. But it was definitely one of those moments. When I stepped out of Penn Station I wanted to be there. The rush of the City convinced me college was next on my list of things to do!
My mother waited outside while I went in to the interview. A bunch of old white men reviewed my art talking about line quality and style, consistency, unique qualities... things that I had no idea about. They came back over and asked me some questions. Mostly they saw that I lived in Oyster Bay and they wanted to talk about that. Everybody knows that Sagamore Hill, was is the Summer White House for Teddy Roosevelt. They asked if I had ever been there. Duh. Of course I’d been there. Also we are well known for Raynham Hall, the haunted home of the Townsends who were part of the spy ring during the Revolutionary War. I had been there several times also. Oyster Bay was known for several famous people living there. They asked if I had ever seen this one or that one and as close as I had gotten was ringing and running at Lionel Richie‘s house.
I was pretty honest in the interview. But I was an awkward 17-year-old at the time ready to take on the world, with a dark personality and angry undertone. Just a couple of months before graduation I found out I was accepted into FIT. But I didn’t want to go because apparently I lived too close to the school to get a dorm. At that point my aunt Gail sent her son Kenny with me into the city to talk to the guidance counselor about why I needed to live on campus in order for my schooling to be a success. I’m not exactly sure what he did but it worked. Something about my home life not being conducive to education…. I was packing a bag and signing away for student loans, as my financial aid would only cover part of my education costs. Let’s go!
Welcome to the art world! New York City is not just fashion it is art history, it is appreciative of all creative energy and talent. It forces you to work very hard because the energy of the entire place is so real. The whole place has momentum. It is easy to get sucked into the creative force that rolls there. And I was thriving :-) I was busy living life and doing all kinds of things but my art was true to who I am. I loved life drawing and cityscapes. We went on field trips to museums with professors who talked about art like it was sacred. And it was.
I fell in love with oils, pastels, and even acrylics on top of the oils :-) one of my Professors told me anyone purchasing my work got every penny of their money back in paint LOL I had made some friends and also began to live my life. Some of the things I painted were Egyptian in nature. People asked me what made me paint hieroglyphics and ancient Gods? I said, “I believe I must have been there before”, and I was painting Native Americans and so many cultural pieces. All of this was inside of me and I never knew until I had a paint brush and an empty canvas. I was featured in the school museum. I was beginning to many contacts for later to network and keep the momentum going after school was over.
I was deeply considering going into the world of textile and surface design in an upper division program. But I also thought maybe I should teach art. By the time I finished my AS degree in Fine Arts I had my son Westley, and was pregnant with my daughter. (I said I was busy). I was not sure a career in textiles and surface design which would surely require me to spend three hours daily on the train commuting back-and-forth of the city be a great thing for them. And so I thought about teaching. Would I like to teach art? I knew I liked my own kids but I was not sure I would be good with anyone else’s. So I decided to spend a little time soul-searching and discovering what I wanted to do before doing it.
I was living back in Oyster Bay in a studio apartment behind the train station and looking for work. One thing leads to another… I found the “pot lady”. She was a local artist who painted flower pots into the most intricate and elegant designs truly creating beautiful pieces. This is New York so she was selling them at shows all over, in the City and in the Hamptons and they were extremely expensive. I was paid seven or eight dollars an hour at first and later I was paid per pot I painted for her. To help increase her inventory and going to those fancy shows every weekend. She was making a fortune. They lived in Center Island and had a big Victorian mansion. Of course her husband was a chiropractor who drove a Porsche. My family was a little skeptical that I was not being paid what I should have been and encouraged me over and over to go out on my own. I didn’t really want to. I was really pretty happy you know, the whole starving artist thing LOL
Everyone who came to my house wanted to help me paint the pots. They were all over the place. Terra-cotta pots for days! And on Friday I would return as many pieces as I was able to do for sake of getting paid. Sometimes I would have my mom help me white wash the pots. That’s the process we used before painting them so the paint would not get eaten by the porous terra-cotta surface. There is definitely a method to this madness my mom and I could do it very quickly. I should mention it’s much more fun with help :-)
My mother was sick at the time. Dying even. She had heart disease and had already recovered from cervical cancer. She was weak. I had already talked with God and knew she was not going to live very long. I knew a lot of her illness was due to her own devices, her own lifestyle choices and I was mad at her for not just making those changes to have health and energy. She would say how much she wanted to be healthy but she would not make any of the effort to be. In reality, she was dying of a broken heart as the love of her life lost his battle to cancer and she was worn from that war, and unwilling to heal. In exchange for taking her back and forth to her doctor appointments she would help paint.
I did start to sell some of my own pots. For half of the price of the pot lady. I did not know anyone who could afford an $80.00 6-inch pot. I did feel that they were beautiful and people would like them. Something different, unique.
I was working on a window display for a florist when my mom died. I painted a huge canvas for them as the backdrop to their Mother’s Day display. I was paid in flowers for my mother’s funeral.
Years before my mother had worked in a nursery up on 25A. The Rose Garden. Someone in my family had told me to go up there and see Roy the owner. We ended up doing business together for years. I painted several of the same pictures for him and even his sisters who all owned the business together. I painted several pots, or canvas and they always paid me upon delivery. Sometimes they would tell me what they wanted sometimes they would say bring whatever you want. I was grateful to have such good connection close to home.
I had a few people that did bad business with me to help me to learn. A business shut down while my pots were inside. The landlord did not want to return my pots to me. He thought that I was working with the lady who had never paid him the rent. And honestly she had never paid me for some art classes I was teaching there as well. He made me a deal that he would give me back my pots if I painted him some windows. So I got my pots back. I never painted the windows. Fuck him and his nasty attitude. Bully.
But over the years I continued to paint. Sometimes more, sometimes less. My girlfriend up in Boston took some pieces up there and sold them for me. A lot of times I gave the pots as gifts to my own friends or family for different occasions. Many years they helped finance Christmas. Many times they paid a bill that I was struggling with and pulled my art out just to fill the gap. But here’s me: I love to paint. It is my happy place. Give me some colors and beautiful idea to bring to life. That’s why I’m alive. I am happiest in this element. I feel creative energy running through my body and driving me too solve problems through the art that otherwise I could not connect with. In art there is peace. In art there is soul. In art there is always a piece of the artist. How do you put a price on your art? How do you sell it? I actually hate this part. My aunt or my girlfriend who have sold pieces for me may have known and therefore just offered to do it for me. I preferred that.
When we moved to Florida there was much less of a market. Everybody wanted everything on consignment and I am terrible about that. I don’t have the time to go back and get the money or call and check to see if anything sold. In all honesty I don’t make it to sell it so that part is very unnecessary to me. So I went back to making items as ordered. Which can be sad at time when no one is ordering.
At one point we had begun a food truck business and I would take my art (whatever was left over from back in the day) to the art festivals that we would set up at to sell food. I would always sell a few things there. But we sold that business and it has been many years since I have displayed my art publicly.
The beauty is every year I start to make some for gifts, and when I take pictures of them, and share, I begin to get orders for other people :-) the orders are always things I would’ve never thought to paint which I love to paint the most! The surprises, the how do I paint that…? moment, the lines coming together and the colors forming new visions. That’s the part that I love.
And now today I find myself going to an art festival for the first time in many years.
Today I am happy because I am attending the Grant Farmers Market/Art Festival. I will be going there to set up a table for the recent things I have made in a few of my oldie but goodie‘s. Just knowing this was coming up gave me so much joy these past few weeks. Painting and getting ready for this has been exciting and reinvigorating to my soul. Why does art bring us so much happiness?
Research is actually showing that looking at art or even creating art triggers the same pleasure center in the brain as being in love! I have seen studies comparing the art high to recreational drug use LOL I’ve never been one for drugs but they say if you are addicted to our you’ll never be able to afford drugs so there’s that. Being creative helps reduce stress, distract you from the daily worries, build self-esteem, and connect you to the part of your brain that has the highest level of understanding and efficiency. This is why art has never been taken completely from schools despite the several attempts in budget cuts over the years. There is just too much research showing how important it is.
It is estimated that the human eye can see ten million colors.... could you name them all?
Science and research have never been able to define why leaves change colors before they turn brown and fall off the trees... It was been determined by some that the sole reason is to bring joy to those watching... if leaves went from green to brown we would all understand. But to turn red, orange, purple, pink, all of the colors and shades in between? That is art.
And right now we seem to need this more than ever? Have you seen the state of the world lately? Calgon take me away, let me soak in the tub and disconnect from the crazy, the lock downs, the sickness, the fear and the paranoia I see everywhere I go. As I walk through schools the changes in the buildings are hard to swallow. I am glad my children are older and seem not to stress about the new normal being pushed down our throats. I like the world we knew, where going out dancing was not going to be a risk to your life and when social media wasn't accusing you of being careless with the health of those compromised... what has happened? Elections.... Scandals... injustice... corruption.... I miss my friends and family I haven't seen.... Save me!
And here I am today on my way to the farmers market to sell my art quite pleased with myself and all of the possibilities. I feel hopeful. I feel blessed to be alive. I believe we chose our live before we are born and I asked for this experience. I plan to fully experience the joys and pains since this is my assignment. To be here. Now. Creative. Resourceful. Light in a world of darkness. Salt in a bland and tasteless society. If nothing else may I encourage you to find your art. Pick up a paint brush. We all experience it differently. Mine may be mixing colors but yours may be dancing, writing, building, we all have an art living inside of us which is neglected more often than not.
Have a great day and thank you for taking the time to understand my journey!
Be blessed in your travels where ever you are!