I’m a self-taught painter. I took art classes in public school growing up, which I’m sure got me going. So, perhaps I’m not self-taught, per se. Maybe I’m self-pursued. Is anyone self-taught entirely?
I’ve kept sketchbooks on and off for many decades. I usually drew to relax or to study an object more closely, purely out of natural fascination. Now I only paint from the imagination and memory – I paint until something looks “real” or “right” to me. I paint to discover what I can’t write, or think, or say.
I majored in theater and music at Bennington College, which was a magical and life-changing time and place. I’d grown up in a small town in NW Indiana, and spent my first year and half of college in Bloomington. But when I transferred to the tiny school where experience in many arts was not only encouraged, it was the norm, life got much more interesting and bigger/broader. While there, I experienced and/or participated in (often experimental) film, theater, dance, music, writing and art. I have since that time held all of these disciplines in high esteem, and engaged in as many of them as I was able.
I’ve worked as a singer for most of my adult life, and as well as a part-time teacher, usually of writing, songwriting, and more recently, visual art. I especially enjoy teaching (children and adults) to make artistic choices based on what they love, like a color, or a shape. I really believe these choices guide us to discovery that is richer than any we might calculate for intellectually or theoretically.
I sat down in December, 2010, to make a painting for my husband, because I’d inadvertently drawn an image that seemed very relevant to our lives together as parents, juggling the life of the imagination and daily practical concerns. I learned a bit late that these two should not be separated, but that’s another story. That painting gave me the nudge I needed to continue trying more.
I became quite convinced that painting and drawing were presenting new modes of personal understanding to me. … I was hooked. I would draw or paint or collage something, and suddenly see myself or someone close to me, or evoke some issue I was grappling with, or recognize a tendency of mine. It was slightly unnerving, but also deeply compelling. Inadvertent tarot. Tea leaves and the sudden capability of reading them.
I did not accept every image that presented to me, but waited for something that seemed transporting, or significant, or had what I perceived to be universal characteristics. Then I pursued it, working out the technical details to the best of my ability.
As I’ve continued, I realize I don’t always understand the meaning of the images that emerge, or their relevance, but they often seem familiar or even necessary somehow. How else or why else would these images exist?
The depth psychologist James Hillman advised in his writing that we not dissect our dreams in search of absolute meaning. That we live with the images, let them operate on us, and thereby keep their impact whole. That makes sense to me, that the dream image would have its own weight and import and its own method of communication with a less accessible part of our awareness. I approach my painting imagery the same way. I allow the imagery to emerge, and unless I grow utterly bored or disinterested, I usually pursue it till it feels finished, which often appears as a found sense of balance.