I think I always was an artist. One of my very earliest memories is of finger-painting and how magical it seemed to dip my finger in the paint and make marks on that huge (to me) sheet of paper. I was probably either three or four years old. I also remember going to a friend's house, probably when I was five years old. She had the 64-color box of Crayola crayons (with the built-in sharpener). It was a revelation to me that there could be that many colors! I remember how excited I was.
As childhood continued, I always colored, drew, painted -- in child-like fashion of course. I remember in 6th grade I became fascinated with Greek mythology and did a series of paintings based on the Greek myths, in tempera paints on poster board. I remember showing them to my babysitter, Mrs. Beck. Many years later, I visited her in the nursing home and she mentioned that I had been an "eccentric" child, a label I accepted with pride.
In 9th grade, I had the privilege of taking Art at school. My first semester teacher spent those months teaching us how to draw, a profound gift for which I shall always be grateful. The second semester, we had a different teacher, whose thing was "just be creative." This was no use at all. It was like putting someone in front of a piano, telling them to bang away, and expecting them to write a sonata. My first semester teacher had the right idea all along. First, teach them the skills.
In 10th grade, I moved in with my father and step-mother. My father would not allow me to take art classes, because he considered that a waste of time. I doodled quite a lot. I remember buying an oil-painting kit and doing a few paintings on my own from photographs.
After I graduated from high school in 1972, my step-mother kicked me out. I had a week to leave and found a job as a nanny. I had to figure out what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to go to college. I applied to the University of Houston, got accepted, and I packed up and moved to Houston (not knowing a soul). I wanted to major in art. But, I made a B in my first art class. My father had drilled into me that any grade less than an A was a failure. So, I decided I wasn't "good enough" to be an artist. I majored in art history instead. With a combination of academic scholarships, part-time jobs, and a student loan, I graduated summa cum laude with my art history degree in 1977. I did this with no support, neither financial nor emotional, from my parents.
About a year later, I got married. When we tried to start a family, we began what turned into a long journey thru years of infertility treatments. After awhile of waiting for the baby who never came, I realized I needed to do something to get out of the deep depression I was stuck in. I took a community school art class. Then, I started going to a life-drawing studio once a week. (Neither were for credit.) This led me, at age 29, to apply to the University of Texas at Austin to be an art major. By that time, I had learned how foolish my father's perfectionism really was. With the art history degree already under my belt, I was able to concentrate on the studio art classes, and earned my Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1986.
A year later, we adopted our first baby. Then 4 years later, we adopted our second boy. One of the dirty little secrets of art school is how very difficult it is to be a parent, particularly a mother, and still produce artwork. I continued to do art, but with a much smaller output. I have a huge stack of "baby in the bathtub" drawings, all done in a minute or less because he was having so much fun in the tub. When the second boy started kindergarten, I was able to return to my artwork.
I will say, very frankly, that I have been blessed having a husband who was fine all along with me not "working," i.e. not having full-time employment outside of the home. We could have had a more "lavish" life-style if I had. But, neither of us cared about that. Because of his support, I have had the luxury of time to devote to artwork.
I also must say, again very frankly, that I have not "Made It." Whatever that means. I host one life drawing studio a week, and I coordinate five others thru my Meetup Group. I don't have gallery representation. I am currently sub-letting a wall at an artist's coop, so I have a place to exhibit my work and take anyone who would like to see it. I also show in the regular art exhibits at my church. And, I have been in some local juried exhibits. Because of my work promoting lifedrawing here, Austin, Texas now has a much larger number of lifedrawing open studios a week than many bigger cities, such as Dallas. I am contacted by artists almost every day who ask to join the group. People being as they are, possibly 10% of the those that contact me actually follow thru and attend one or more studios a week.
When I meet high school and college art students, I tell them I can absolutely predict whether or not they will still be doing artwork in 30 years. Then I ask them these questions: "Do you do artwork during the Christmas break?" "Do you do artwork during the summer?" I am asking them the question, do you do artwork when no one is telling you to do it? When there is no grade, no school credit? If the answer is "No," and especially if the answer about summer is, "No, I work during the summer," then they will most likely not continue doing artwork after graduation. Because, after graduation, you have to get a job! When it comes to art, you must be self-motivated. It helps to meet with other artists, at least now and then, to get validation that art is actually important. I guarantee you, very few non-artist people think it is! At least, not in the United States.
So, I do my artwork. Even tho there isn't a grade. No school credit. Very few sales. Very little encouragement from the wide-wide world. I do it despite the obstacles, because I must.
I hope this has been a helpful response, and if you have any other questions or any comments you would like to make, please feel free to email me.
And, for you gentle readers, here is today's version of the 64-color box of crayons. And, a jpeg of a drawing I did that first semester in 9th grade. I look at that drawing now and think "Wow, OCD!"