At age 12, I took a drawing class at the Decordova Museum. Our models were nude. My parents were shocked. I’ve been drawing ever since. While pursing my doctorate and then teaching, my pastels graced the walls of our city home. After Geoffrey and I moved to the country and founded Vital Arts, I drew and painted with my three, four, then five children.
In January 2016 my art practice exploded. I couldn’t stop admiring some roses — given to Geoffrey after his December 15 concert at Carnegie Hall — that were drying into magnificent, crinkly shapes. They called to me. I describe these beginnings in a blog I wrote called Obey the Flower: Lessons Learned from Drawing a Rose.
For my first two series of roses, I used 18” by 24” sheets taken from Jordan’s drawing pad. Then the flowers took over, and they wanted to be big. And bigger. And in color. I bought a roll of paper, taped huge pieces to our family room wall, and followed their call.
These flowers above huge — four feet tall and four to six feet wide. They inhabit the wall as beings of their own, beaming their beauty into the room. The moth was a commission for a friend and colleague.
After I had papered the walls of our house once and then twice with charcoal and pastel flowers, it was time to experiment with a medium that was smaller, more portable, and more permanent. In the past few months, I’ve been painting with acrylic on 12″ by 12″ squares of wood. I was afraid of going small – afraid of losing the relationship of my moving body to the flower that I find so inspiring.
However, new delights beckon – the smooth flow of paint on wood; the arc of a brush stroke, the colors vibrating against one another. In making these smaller pieces I aim to evoke the same sense of dynamic movement – the never-ending becoming – that I see in these compact blasts of life.
I draw and paint at night, right in the middle of the family room, while the kids do homework or relax, often for no more than 20 minutes or so. By that time in the day, I’m tired of words and screens and big bodily movements, and just plain tired. I find that moving my hand across a surface and seeing new shapes come to life makes me happy. The stakes are low. I can simply follow my own impulses to move, and so I do. The kids watch and sometimes comment. For a while Leif would arrange himself on the couch so he could watch me work, and drift off to sleep. He said watching made him feel peaceful. Just like it makes me.