“I believe that we all have strands of creative code hand-wired into our imagination…They determine the forms we work in, the stories we tell, and how we tell them,” so says Twyla Tharp in her book The Creative Habit Learn It and Use It for Life.
My creative DNA started in my Grandmother’s china shop in her home attic in little, rural Happy, Texas. She sold blank china and bisque and taught oil painting lessons to ladies in the community. She allowed me to sit in during the painting sessions and paint my own plates. The smell of turpentine in tiny pimento jars used to clean brushes and the anticipation of waiting for my creations to come out of the kiln in her garage are fond memories for me.
My Grandmother took this photo of me in her attic studio at age 2 or 3. Here’s what I see when I study it:
This girl is staunchly independent, standing solo, comfortable with taking on the world as an individual. Her posture and hands-on-hips stance denote that she is in charge, standing firm, determined to do things her way. She’s not looking at her Grandmother or the camera, but instead, she’s glancing off to one side – aware, curious, a tad wary, making certain no one or nothing encroaches on her plan or space. She’s also not smiling. She seems quite serious about her big plans and goals. She’s serious that she senses and understands her true path, doesn’t want anything to stand in her way or interrupt her from achieving her purpose.
She’s in her element surrounded by art – surrounded by large canvases displaying bold ideas coming to life in paint. No small, wallflower, imperceptible shifts for this girl. She deals in hefty ideas and goals that create life-changing transformations. The girl is also exposed and open to the world, nude except for panties and a cute hairdo. She seems willing to allow her deepest creativity, thoughts and desires to be displayed to the world through her art.
When my Grandmother took this photo in her studio, did she somehow perceive that this young girl was destined to become an artist, a visual storyteller, a vessel, a messenger? Did the little girl already intuitively know her destiny, even answering “an artist” when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up during a beauty contest at age 6? Perhaps…
Sketching and painting have always been an undercurrent in my life. In junior high and high school, I was the go-to person to draw the cowboy on bucking bronco mascot for pep rally posters and took my first live model art course at West Texas State University the summer of 1984 after graduating high school. I took a few other portrait, live model, and drawing courses at Texas Tech University during college. Art was a fun and cool thing to do.
Then in 2000, I found painting to be a purging emotional release while going through a divorce, going back to school for a doctorate degree, and moving to Connecticut to begin a wholly new life as a university professor – a 180-degree turn from my past self. My creative DNA pattern began taking shape in the form of female portraits surrounded by emotion and femininity. I eventually realized I was painting an autobiography of what was happening in my life. The female faces may come from free-hand sketches of girls in perfume ads, fashion photos, or catalog covers I find interesting or pretty, but the themes and emotion driving the works are from my life at that snapshot in time.
Art is my passion that I don’t get to do enough of because of constraints of working in the “real world,” but I paint as often as possible – a splash of color here and there on a new portrait or flower – in my basement studio. I aspire to someday achieve the freedom to paint and create full time, fulfill my destiny of becoming an artist, serving as a vessel, a bridge that can touch others and make them feel happiness, peace, perhaps something profound, spark a recognition from their own life experience. I think my younger self realized this destiny. It’s up to the adult me to find again that path.