INSPIRATION…where do I begin — obviously at the beginning!
As a child, I loved to doodle and even had a grandmother who was quite proficient in oil painting. But did she ever do ANYTHING to inspire me, by example, help, or encouragement. Nope! As I recall, no one even suggested that I might have talent.
I decided to major in Art at the University of Oklahoma only because it didn’t require a math prerequisite (and I knew that math was NOT my forte). It seemed that my best assignments were those that I did in a hurry and just before the deadline. I actually spent more time at the School of Architecture than the Art School. Unfortunately, my “formal” education was aborted when it was discovered that my Mother had cancer, so my education went “bye-bye”.
It wasn’t until the early 60′s when I attended an art class held in a small studio. I only went to keep a girlfriend company and had no intention to even try. Until then I’d been buying prints and painting Elmers Glue over them for brush strokes. At that time the small class only cost $5.00, plus the price of a canvas. I was encouraged to try by the sweet, dear woman who owned the studio. Her name was Florette and her husband did the framing. Our assignment was to do a still life of a wine bottle, apple and wine glass. Florette told us how to sketch in charcoal, blow away the dust, paint over the charcoal strokes with gold ochre thinned oils (making corrections if needed), and voila, I had a painting done in two hours. Florette kept walking around, encouraging us, helping when necessary, and our merry little band of about 8 students always knew that, no matter how badly we did, “Florette could fix it”. Just a stroke here and there would get us on the right track.
I carried that finished oil home that night and carried it with me all around the house, totally disbelieving that I had created something I was proud of. To this day, that painting is my daughter’s favorite and one that I would never part with.
Florette was European, trained abroad and she tirelessly hand-painted fine china at an early age, using just the primary colors of red, blue and yellow. She was patient, encouraging, witty and wonderful. I ended up spending hours a day in the studio, watching, studying, painting. It seemed that I tried painting anything and everything. Each time one of us would win a contest, we’d paint, drink wine and eat cheese and fruit. Yup, that’s why I try to make my paintings loose. (It’s also why I serve my students my special, magical and mystical Fermented Coconut Milk and give them leis when they show they are trying — yup, it’s bribery, but what the heck, they love it.)
Due to a cruel twist of fate, Florette and her husband (who was a private pilot) flew into the side of a mountain and were killed instantly. Needless to say, I was devastated and grieved for what seemed a very long time. Then, I once again had to tackle painting without MY Florette. Somehow I felt her presence, as though she was there and critiquing me while encouraging me to try, try, and try some more. Always, in the back of my mind was “Florette can fix it”…but there was no longer a physical Florette — just the spirit she instilled in me.
I’ve painted everything from the inside stall door of a ladies’ bathroom at a saloon in Arizona, to the insides of oyster shells, to portraits of celebrities. I’ve painted on rocks, seashells, wood, canvas, plates, glasses, cloth, cars and walls. Those are all I can think of at the moment.
Let’s skip forward 40+ years and here I am, instructing at LVS. Vikki, our Administrator, has become my business “Florette”…helping, encouraging, and allowing me freedom to teach and share my knowledge with my students. So, now I have yet another person who has inspired me. We can count friends and family — even online firends — (but they’re biased). It’s still that small voice inside me that says “Hillary, you can do it” (which seems to be coming from Florette) when I have to critique my students.
When all else fails, my love of music has inspired me more than anything. I can reach deep into my soul and envision beauty which demands to be seen on canvas — yet, my need to share my knowledge with my students prevents me from selfishly pursuing my own desires, at least for now. If I can instill just a small glimmer of hope and enlightenment to a student in order to help him or her with pursuing the arts, then I will have fulfilled my reason for being here.
There you have it! My secret is that little Angel named “Florette”, who whispers in my ear that I can do it and INSPIRES me to do the best I can with what I have.
P.S. Have I told you lately that I’m not perfect, but certainly inspired — and pray that I can be an inspiration to others.