My grandmother was an amazing watercolor artist. I only saw my grandmother a few times in my life, but I've only ever heard great things about her from my mother. She raised six children and buried a seventh. She lived all over the US and abroad in Italy and Thailand with said children and a husband who worked for the Department of Defense. She was strict, organized, loved her kids and if she was anything like my own mother, which I'm sure is where my mother gets it from, she laughed, sang and loved life. She painted countless amazing paintings, some of which my mother still has hanging in her house. She won awards through her art exhibits and sold her work to help support her family.
I have a few rather vague memories of my grandmother. I remember her crown of silver curls, her long slender fingers holding her paintbrush. I remember her art studio in her basement and the patient way she tried to show me how to paint watercolors.
"No, Cady," she would patiently say...."It's alright if the color spreads outside the lines....it's what watercolors are supposed to do!" It frustrated me. I liked to color inside the lines....logic demanded it. I was a teen when she tried to teach me and I rejected the whole process. Watercolors were boring! Acrylics were more exciting and much easier to control.
That was the only time she tried to teach me and, boy, do I regret it! She had so much to instruct me in and I didn't listen!
"Watercolors take time, Cady....and patience."
I've only learned recently that the patience of watercolors is the secret magic of the art form. To slowly watch your painting unfold wash by wash is priceless. Maybe that is why older people enjoy watercolors so much....because they have the time to invest in slowly watching a painting come to fruition.
I spent so many years trying to be somebody else....trying to be outgoing, popular, successful. I tried to be dramatic with my acrylics, I tried acting and singing in a group, dressing in styles that I was uncomfortable in....you name it! Deep down inside, I think I just needed to be me.....and I've found out that I'm very much like my grandmother. Years after her death, as I hold some of her well worn brushes or thumb through her favorite art books, I feel her presence. My mom says that I look like my grandmother, I have her sweet singing voice....I'm a bit reserved, am a homebody and I dislike being the center of attention or crowds....I'm sensitive and I cry easily.
When I pick up my brush, I feel centered....like I've finally, after all these years, become satisfied with who I've become. As I paint, her brushes sit in a jar on my desk and I am thankful that her artistic influence somehow lives on. Even though I didn't grow up knowing her....I love that I've somehow inherited a piece of her.
Her name was Jean Toups.
Here are some of her paintings. I hope you enjoy them!
Oh, and I still paint inside the lines....but I'm learning to let go. :)
Cervantes once said, "Tell me what company thou keepest and I'll tell thee who thou art."
Emerson quoth, "A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him, I may think aloud. A friend may well be reckoned the masterpiece of nature."
And Thoreau states, "The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend. I have no wealth to bestow on him. If he knows that I am happy in loving him, he will want no other reward. Is not friendship divine in this?"
Friendship. That words definitely brings up many mixed emotions for all people. Some memories are sweet, some are sour. There are friends who reach out and permanently leave their sweet handprint on your life, patiently listening and loving you through your successes, faults and failures. Those are definitely difficult friends to find, but when life hands you such a friend, there is no doubt that God is infinitely full of goodness.
Let me explain it like this. I love to garden. I grow flowers and veggies and our entire family enjoys their wonderful benefits. When I go out on a summer morning to weed, especially in the spring, I have to weed carefully b/c there are weeds in the garden that will imitate the flower plants, as if they are trying to fool the weeder into not plucking them. There have been summers where I have nurtured a plant that I thought was a flower, only to be chagrined to find that it was a weed after all. I think that friendships can be like this. Sometimes you have to carefully sort through the weeds in order to recognize that flower of a friend. The person that will bring out the best in you, that you can trust....that person that demonstrates character, loyalty and encouragement. The Bible states that, "a friend loveth at all times..." good and bad.
I recently reconnected with an old friend. I must say that I was nervous reconnecting with her, but our time together has been so full of sweet fellowship and we, oh joy, have been painting together! (that is like winning the super-wonderful-added-bonus round in friendships....lol)
So, if you're reading this post, friend.....thanks....you have been and are a blessing to me. For everyone else, be loyal to your friends, be honest with them, love them through their faults and forgive them. Don't throw away friends as if they don't matter and maybe take a moment to let your friend know how much you value them.
True friends really are the flowers of life. Don't let them wilt.
To my two other "sisters"......I love you both! I can't even begin to tell you how rich my life is b/c of you!
For The Naïve Artist….You Can Do It!
by Cady Driver
This is a shout out to all of the naïve artists out there. Naïve art has been defined as many things from art with little or no training behind it, to outsider art or primitive art. The definitions, opinions and even the acceptance of getting schooled in order to learn how to paint naïve art, which seems like a misnomer to me, goes on and on.
Whatever your definition of naïve art is, I consider it to be art from the pure and untrained soul. Art that flows from the brush of an artist who dreams of training, but maybe cannot afford it. Art that has not been conformed and squished into the box of the art professor (not that there’s anything wrong with that!)
As a teenager, I remember whiling away long hours of Medieval Literature classes drawing intricate vines, flowers and scrollwork up and down my arms, wrists and fingers. When I was 17, my mother, in order to prevent me from suffering from a pre-mature death due to ink poisoning, plopped my rear down in the back of a dingy art store, stuck a brush in my hand, and prayed fervently that her daughter would find something other to do in life than draw on herself. Sure enough, it stuck! I was hooked and after 2 classes of tole painting, I decided to buy some cheap craft paints and simply teach myself.
I remember painting on anything that I could get my hands on….rocks, glassware, walls, vases and once, even a pair of deer antlers! Note to self: Rose vines don’t really add any decorative value to deer antlers. I was so fascinated with the colors, the flow of the vine, the turn of a leaf, that at times I would lose sleep over it.
Four years later, I found myself happily married with a baby on the way. Pregnant, I waddled around and festooned the nursery in our tiny house with flowers, fences, butterflies and birdhouses. Three years later, I found myself thumbing through a dog-eared art book while nursing my youngest, spooning food into the mouth of my 16 month old son and attempting to occupy a hyper three year old. Despite my exhaustion, I would still find time during naps to sneak down into our dingy basement, squeeze those alluring colors onto my cool whip top (I couldn’t afford a palette) and dab about with my cheap but still-beloved paints.
It was during my third pregnancy that I hatched the hair brained plan to donate a mural to the Yale Psychiatric ward in New Haven, CT. When the staff there accepted, I was thrilled! With miles of white walls, I had more canvas then I knew what to do with. I festooned the walls with fences, trees, flowers and bushes while the psychiatric residents there alternately watched, drooled, grilled me for my phone number and peed on my bushes, which was either an insult or a compliment depending on your point of view. (ooh, look! A bush to relieve myself on!)
It took me almost a year to finish that ward and by then, I was hooked by the mural bug. Caution: untrained muralist on the loose! Soon, people were paying me to design murals for their children’s rooms. I was donating murals to sick children, hospitals and doctor’s offices and I even had an article written about me in the newspaper. Thrilled doesn’t even begin to describe me at that point. If you are thinking that I am easily amused, then you would be right.
Well, if you’re still reading this, I must applaud you because my ordinary life as an untrained, naïve, artist mom is of no significance in the grand scheme of all things artsty and fartsy. I simply have one more event to write about and I’ve saved the best for last in this artistic journey.
In the ultimate pinnacle, the moment in time when all things culminate in a dramatic ending point of hallelujah moments……wait for it….my husband gave me a watercolor set 2 years ago for Christmas. What joy! If it were possible for my soul to be intravenously fed with watercolors, then hook me up! Not that I’m recommending this, mind you.
My journey has ended with a love for watercolors. I guess it is literally in my blood since my grandmother was a watercolor artist. I paint and I pound my desk in frustration and I read and I sketch and dream and clean house and mother my kids, homeschool and paint some more. I’ve taken 2 classes and nearly killed myself with excitement during each one. I’m the lucky wife of an IT guy and between the two of us, we designed my art website, advertise on Craigslist and dream up new ways to get my name out there. My art sells and while I am still relatively new to the watercolor world, I am already teaching classes, have a published children’s book out and I’m currently working on another! Woooo hooooo!
Hopefully, my little story can be an encouragement to all of the naïve artists out there who dream in whatever their flavor of art is. For the mom who can’t go to school, for the struggling art student, for the ordinary man at his eight-to-five job, for the inner city child dreaming of open doors, be inspired!
You can do it! Read and paint and learn and haunt the art galleries until you literally become a nuisance. Done that! There are many artists who have become great simply through sheer gritty determination to show the world what was in their soul. Will there be setbacks? You bet. Will there be disappointments and a longing to simply sit back and be taught the techniques that puzzle you? Always. Can you overcome these things on a limited budget in spite of life’s curveballs? Without a doubt. At the end of the day when you have conquered and succeeded, how will it feel? Priceless.
Life is simply brimming with artistic possibilities. Go out there and do it!
"Are you a Pollyanna?"
The person who asked me this was a good friend and respected mentor of mine in the art world whom I visited once a week at an art gallery while my daughter was at ballet. When he inquired about my Pollyanna status, I was surprised and felt defensive for a moment b/c I sensed that the question wasn’t a compliment.
I really don't think it was a compliment.
For a split second, I had to think about it and then wonder as to why I would feel insulted by the question. I guess that the reason it took me by surprise is that I am
a Pollyanna. I just had never thought about it in those terms before.
I ended up saying yes to his question and, after some consideration, eventually reveling in my answer.
Pollyanna - [pol-ee-an-uh] –noun 1. an excessively or blindly optimistic person.–adjective 2. ( often lowercase ) Also, Pol·ly·an·na·ish. unreasonably or illogically optimistic
Yes, yes, I guess I AM a Pollyanna….and proud of it
! Well, I don't think I'm "illogically optimistic", but I do attempt to see look at the bright side as much as I can. I don't always accomplish this, but.....
I mean, how many Pollyanna’s are there out there? I’m a Pollyanna if I not only stay at home with my kids, but love staying at home and even love homeschooling? I’m a Pollyanna if I still unashamedly express my deep and abiding affection for my husband of 12 years? I’m a Pollyanna if I prefer skirts to daisy dukes? Honestly, I’m not tooting my own horn here b/c I’m fully aware of my many
flaws, but why is being a Pollyanna such a bad thing? Didn’t Pollyanna win the day in the end by changing an entire town for good?
I was then informed, by this same person, that my art is “too innocent”. “You need to take the innocence out of your art,” I was told.
This was very puzzling to me. What constitutes innocent art and why is innocent art so bad
? I’m certainly not suffering for sales. I can hardly keep up with all of my art contracts right now.
Then it hit me….I don’t paint nude people in horrendously awkward poses!
My art doesn’t drip with anguished emotion or dark, images that are supposed to delve into something strange and existential.
My mentor pulls out some charcoal sketches of nudes…mostly women, laying around listlessly, naked. (On a side note, can I just observe that this is NOT reality...who has time to lay around naked? and in such funny poses! Sheesh! Not me!)
In all fairness, I can see his point. The human body is a difficult subject to master successfully and takes time and talent. Many of the ancient art masters spent years sculpting, painting and sketching the naked form, but must I? I felt awkward looking at these pictures, created by other male artists, of nude women in various contorted poses that would keep any chiropractor busy.
I spent some time considering these two things…Pollyanna and innocent art. Do I really want to sacrifice my morals so that I can be an edgy artist? Can’t I paint what inspires me? Things like my children on the beach, nature, light and portraits?
I am certainly not a Pollyanna in the sense that I don’t know the reality of pain and suffering. My life is no different than yours, my friend. Pain is a part of life, I have experienced my share and I’m absolutely positive there will be more to come. There is just a choice to look up, be cheerful and leave the worrying to a higher authority. (I don't always accomplish this...mind you.)
So, here I am. I’ve entered the intimidating, high and mighty, hoity-toity art world. Will I make it? Probably not. I really don’t have any desire to lay my morals on the altar of the weird, the ugly, the art that insults your senses and doesn’t satisfy the need for balance and beauty….basically the altar of artistic gallery success and fame.
There, I said it. Now all you art critics can collectively gasp in horror.
Will I paint nudes to sell more art? No. Modesty is modesty no matter which way you paint it. Will I sacrifice my “innocent” art to make more money? No. I paint what I love, what brings light to people, what is beautiful and inspiring.
Is it so bad to be content with the simple things in life, to be committed to one person only, to not desire fame and fortune and to be happy
in my own modestly appareled skin?
Nope, nope and nope.
My next painting will be named "Pollyanna".
This is a post about a pile. No, not a pile of shoes or laundry (I do have those piles, too) No, this is a pile lurking in every artists' space that sits silently in the corner, collecting dust and cat hair. It is called the "reject" pile of art. It's the art that started out with the best of intentions, much excitement and enthusiasm, but somewhere along the painting journey when I took the artistic road less traveled by, that road ended up in a pile of purple mistakes and bad hair (that doesn't really make sense, but it will, I promise!)
I had painted "Rachel" a while ago and I decided to give it another try with some new skin tone techniques that I wanted to master. It was coming along nicely and I was feeling incredibly pleased with myself, until.....
This. I was feeling extremely excited that her skin tones were blending so nicely, however, somewhere between laying down the skin tone wash and then starting the hair, something started to go wrong with the whole thing.
At this point, I started thinking that...hmmm...the hair is curly, but it's kind of looking TOO curly, like a wig. What to do? Looking back, I think I should have stopped here and not attempted ANOTHER skin tone wash, but of course, I DID start another wash...oy (this is the point where I started down the road less traveled by...the road of how-many-washes-of-skin-tones-can-I-get-away-with) Yes, that road. It's a dark and scary road and I don't recommend vacationing there.
Now, at this point in the painting, I think I should have just abandoned the whole thing, but I was determined to fix it and by golly, it'll be a masterpiece! Heh heh...I laid down another wash into the background and the colors were just not working. I started trying to fix the hair and then the artist's obsession hit me. I just couldn't stop! It was like an addiction. I HAD to make this work. (any artist that is reading this is now chuckling to himself/herself because we've all been there now, haven't we!?! Admit it....It's okay!) I should have just walked away at this point and left it for a while, but you know of course, I didn't.....such is the nature of the addict.
So, at this point, I'm working on the clothes and I'm not really sure of where I'm going with the neck line of the shirt b/c I've NEVER seen a shirt neckline like this one, have you? In real life, it would be a mother's nightmare to iron. In between strokes, I'm banging my head on the table (not really) but wanting to! The hair is looking more and more like a cheap wig and I'm deepening the skin tones, adding too much purple and then trying to compensate by rewashing and flesh tones onto it. Why do I do this to myself? *sigh*
Aaaaand, as you can see, I lost the luminosity of her skin tone, the hair is a wreck, the background looks like a tie-dye t-shirt nightmare and it's just bleah. There's too much purple, I'm thinking and the child looks too chubby, I could go on and on. SO, for all of you art junkies, don't let the painting addiction drag you to the brink of insanity, the point of no return where the purple is washed on and there's no going back. Don't continue past the point of inevitability! There's no fixing it or going back! This is definitely going to go into the "lesson learned" pile, but don't be afraid of that scary pile! Even though it sits there and silently mocks you with it's misplaced colors and over washed tones, that pile is actually your best friend! Through those failed paintings, you have learned much and even if your next attempt isn't successful, it will still be a bit better than the last one. Keep painting!
I recently received an email from a stranger. The message read as follows:
"Do you have any interest in an undraped male figure model? 6'2", 180 (ish) "
Aaaaannnd...no, I do not have any desire to have a tall undraped model hanging about. The strange thing is, I don't paint, sketch, draw, sculpt or artistically do anything with nudes or partial nudes and I seem to be continually running into situations where people are either suggesting that I start moving in that direction or actually offering to hang about naked so that I can paint them. (!!!!) Stop!!!!
I think that as an artist, if you want to paint naked people, then okay, that's great. I think it is a difficult thing to do and I admire artists that have mastered it, but I'm just not that type of artist. After all, it would be pretty silly for me to have naked painted people draped all over my website considering that I write for a modesty blog
....lol (which ya'll should check out, btw)
My question is, why is everyone so anxious to be throwing off their clothes anyways? Nothing says comfort like a soft, cozy sweater and some fleece pants, but nooooo...everyone is determined to either catch their death of pneumonia in the winter or burn their buns in the summer. Seriously, people! Let's just all calm down and keep our knickers on. :)
When my kids were small, they had this habit of simply shedding clothes during the day whether they were inside or outside. I could usually find them by following the trail of clothes that ended with a diaper (which was always the last thing to be yanked off) Of course, it's cute when your toddler is running about naked with grass on his buns, but there is this thing that happens to all humans and it's called "growing up". Wow, what a concept! You see, eventually we are supposed to become adults and historically speaking, adults just don't run about throwing their clothes to the wind. People used to be committed for that kind of behavior yet today, if you desire to keep your clothes on, you're considered "inhibited". Oy.
I do realize that everyone is walking around naked underneath their clothes, but the clothes are there for a reason. Let's just say that I am a firm believer in keeping clothes on our bods and concentrating on the more important things in life such as your friends and family, your marriage, your children and, most importantly, God! (who, btw, was the One who invented clothes and told us to keep them on!) lol
Okay, that's today's rant. I hope that your day is fully clothed and in its right mind.
For everyone who is wondering, my first official exhibition was amazing and I am deeply grateful to all of my friends and family who attended. Thank you!
Yes, my butterflies went away as soon as the event started, but they returned with a vengeance when I had to stand up and speak to the group that was there. Let's just say that I am NOT a public speaker. I'd rather be snake handling, blindfolded while walking on hot coals in India, than be standing up in front of a crowd. My heart was beating so hard that I swear my necklace was jumping. Oh well. Hopefully something coherent issued from my mouth because somehow I got through it. After that traumatic event, the rest of the evening was lovely!
There were a couple of paintings that drew a lot of attention. "Follow" was one. People seemed to stand in front of it and study it for long periods of time. The "Asian Orchids" painting seemed to garner a lot of attention as well and the portraits probably drew the most comments. It was funny because a woman walked up to me and said, "I am going to HAVE to tell my friend about your painting of the little blonde girl with the curls! It looks exactly like her daughter!" and I said, "It wouldn't happen to be Kate Perry, would it?" and.....it was! I did a little internal happy jig because I was thrilled that I had captured Kate's daughter well enough that someone else had recognized her portrait! :) I know......I'm easily amused.
There were a lot of artists there that night and I am excited about getting to know other artists in the area and getting more plugged in to the local events.
I would like to thank Dorothy Demboski, Janie Prete and the other people involved with making the Clayton Visual Arts Exhibition a success in bringing art to the Clayton area!
There are definitely butterflies in my stomach this morning, fluttering around, aimlessly tickling the granola that I just ate. Tonight is officially my first exhibit and while I'm excited, I'm also very nervous. You see, artists are sensitive souls deep down inside and I am an artist to the core. I sincerely try to squash down my sensitivity and not let it show, but I get my feelings hurt easily, I cry at Hallmark commercials (has anyone seen that new cat food commercial lately? Tear JERKER!) and I'm especially sensitive about my art. I know, I know, I shouldn't be, but art becomes a part of you when you are creating it. When I left all of my framed children, I mean, pieces of art at the center last week, I almost wanted to wave goodbye to them and assure them that I'd be back soon!
Here's the funny part about creating art. I'll get this tremendous, uplifting idea of what to paint and I'll ruminate about it for a few days....hold on...the dog is sounding like a monkey on the front porch and I have to let her in.....OKAY, I'm back....THEN, I'll print out pictures and sketch and work out the details until I'm satisfied. Once the colors hits the page, I almost can't concentrate on anything else in my life. I HAVE to finish it and I steal every spare moment I can to work on it. THEN, when I've dabbed my last dab and signed my name with an artistic flourish, I'll tiptoe downstairs to show my husband, Chris, and get his opinion.
I DO want his opinion, but I'm cringing inside b/c not only is his opinion extremely important to me, but ultimately I know that his photographer's eye will find something wrong. So, I stand there holding my painting straight out, dramatically squeezing my eyes shut while flinching and waiting for the tone of his voice (even if he says it's good in words, it's the tone of voice the tips me off that all is not well in my painting). If the tone is slightly off to my ear, then we argue about it for awhile and I INSIST that he tell me WHAT is wrong with my beautiful painting and he INSISTS that nothing is wrong b/c he KNOWS that I'll get my feelings hurt.....HA HA HA...and I dramatically insist that I won't and he's ridiculous to think that (although, we both know the truth) and so we dance around the subject for a good bit. Then I finally wear him down and he warily tells me what's wrong and, of course, I pout for a while and then I change or fix the problem in the painting. I hate to admit this, but 99% of the time, he is RIGHT and the painting looks perfect after I've fixed whatever the issue was. *sigh* I'm so difficult and he still loves me....lol
Such is the life of an artist and I do hope for constructive criticism tonight because I know that it helps me to paint better, even thought I inwardly want to be like a turtle and not let anyone criticize my art. (that was a mixed metaphor if there ever was one!) I know that I need it! There must be some sort of spiritual application around this, but I've lost my train of thought because my youngest came down with an "itchy" nose and I had to scratch it for a minute. Scratching a small, wiggly nose has efficiently ended this line of thinking for the day.
Oh, and thanks for all of the kind words of encouragement from all of my friends and family! I love you all!
P.S. If you are reading this blog, you are forbidden from thinking my life is perfect. My cat decided to hock up a hairball on my Pier 1 table runner last night.
P.P.S. I love italics.
Well, I've been thinking about starting an art blog for a while now. I would ideally like to discuss different topics and techniques with watercolors and, to be honest, I'll probably intersperse these thoughts with funny antics from my kids. Topics that arise from day to day include thoughts such as, "Mom, what do babies breasts look like?" (from my youngest) to "Mom, you look like a cow in that dress!" (also from my youngest....b/c the dress had a black and white pattern). *sigh*
I might also include any writing or poetry that I've been working on and better yet, I might even throw in some homeschooling highs and lows, ideas and thoughts. This blog will probably be a lovely smorgasbord of yummy topics to tickle your mental palate. (wasn't that a lovely sentence?) :)
So, for starters...if you're reading this...welcome to my little blog. Life is so great and I didn't even cut off any fingers when I was trimming the hedges today! Small blessings.