It’s November 1986. I’m happily painting in my studio. The phone rings and my life is about to change.
No it was not a call from Publisher Clearing House. No I did not win any lottery or prize. Well, now that I think about that call, maybe I did win the lottery. Actually it definitely changed my art career and my future. I guess I’d say I won big time.
It was my nephew, calling from Chicago, asking if I owned a computer. Computer??? Not one of my art friends owned a computer. Why would I own a computer. His next words told me why.
He said, “I’m majoring in computer science and we just wrote a program that I know you have to have. It’s for an Apple computer and it’s a painting program. I’ll send it to you, but you need to have a computer.”
Now that sounded interesting. I’m really addicted to buying art materials and if it’s a new paint color, a new pen, a new brush, a new paintbox, I just have to have it. But this is really interesting. Painting on a computer. How does that work?
Remember back in time. 1986. There was no internet. Anything I wanted to learn I had to go to the library. But I was not about to begin a research project on how to use a computer.
So off I ventured to the electronic store that sold Apple computers. And home I came with the Apple IIe. As I told the sales clerk, this was my first viewing of a computer. This was a Friday and he said he’d come to my house and set it up on Monday and show me how to use it.
Impatient should be my middle name. No way could I wait til Monday. Not when I had just spent $1400 ( value today $3500) So I took out the instruction book, read it and set up the computer myself. By Sunday I had my bookkeeping all set up. I admit, I m technologically astute. Now for the fun part. Learning how to paint, watching the monitor and moving the mouse. That wasn’t easy …but I got good at it.
That was 1986. The company who made that program for Apple, ultimately sold the program. I moved to the new company’s version and about three years later it got sold to Corel. Corel named their version Painter and they sold the program in a paint can. I’m still using Painter today. I buy a new version every year.
In 2002 the mouse became a graphic tablet and digital pen.
I held the tablet in my left hand and painted with the digital pen in my right hand, looking up at the computer monitor.
In about 2012 I bought a 22” Wacom screen (like they were using at the Disney studios) and used a digital pen to paint directly on the screen.
I guess I won the lottery with that phone call way back then. I’m definitely a digital painter. No odors, no harmful turpentine or paints. And I’ve learned to use digital oil paints, acrylics, watercolors, charcoal, pencils, pens, pastels, airbrush and more.
Would I go back to using traditional mediums on physical paper or canvas? Absolutely NOT.
Would I use coin box telephones, wringer washing machines and ice boxes? Would you? Time marches on and so do I.
Chapter 18 – Capturing Beauty
China did inspire me. I mean really inspired. On the long plane trip home to the Seattle area, I planned my next art project. By the time I got off the plane, I could see the series in my head. ” Capturing Beauty”
Drawing is my all time favorite thing to do. Of course that would be my best-loved. It was what I couldn’t do and the reason that I went to art school. My plan was to use models, beautiful models. We never had good-looking models in art school.
My investigation was about capturing beauty. Since in my family, my younger sister was the beautiful one, I always wondered what it was like to be exquisite. Don’t get me wrong, I was known as the smart one. And I really liked being smart. So that was perfectly fine with me. But my curiosity was still about being beautiful
My plan is to use charcoal. There is a great art supply company in Seattle. Daniel Smith, the original owner, loved to explore. So it’s always an adventure to go into Seattle and spend a day at Daniel Smith Art Material, just browsing. That was definitely dangerous on any artist’s budget. But I always discovered something that wasn’t available anywhere else.
My field trip adventure was to explore papers for my series. I actually did find fourteen paper boards. A pink/grey color charcoal paper mounted on a rigid backboard. This paper is perfect for my project of capturing beauty. It had a smooth grain (unlike most charcoal paper) and will be ideal for the softness of female skin.
The boards were an unusual size. To this day, I don’t know where these boards were imported from, but I’ve never seen them again. They also were a very unusual size 32”x30”. Most charcoal boards were 22”x28” So right from the start I had a unique work surface and size
I couldn’t wait to begin, but I needed models. In Chicago I had my sister model for me, and I did incredible drawings of her. She didn’t live in Washington, so it was time for new models.
One of my ex-store managers was now working at Nordstroms. She became my personal shopper (I hate to shop) and I knew she’d help me find a couple of models. So off I went to Nordstroms, where I not only found a few models, but I found a few perfect hats. Hats were part of the theme for this suite of work.
I completed twelve drawings in about four months. My first decision was to draw a window on each piece of paper.
And I had the models going out of the window, coming into the window, or staring out from the window. I’ve always loved looking into New York and Chicago department store windows, with their incredible mannequins. In this case it would just be closeups of their faces in the windows.
I named the series “Windows” and I admit proudly…the entire series sold out. Not in my linen store, but to people in the Seattle area who began collecting my artwork. Below is a diptych piece, the photo is old, but you can get the idea.
One afternoon a neighbor called and asked if I could give a tour of my studio and drawing series to her friends. My studio had white walls and was about 1500 square feet. The series of twelve drawings was hung in gallery fashion on and around the three walls. I showed them where to start at “Woman I.” They slowly studied each piece, pausing for about three minutes at each one, as they walked around the room. I sat with my neighbor in another part of the studio, giving my visitors space.
I became extremely nervous. They were the first two people to see the completed series. Somewhere around “Woman VII” I noticed the man was crying. I really thought he hated my work. And that became extremely disturbing. It took almost 30 minutes for them to finish their viewing. I was never comfortable at any of my gallery shows back in Chicago. But this reaction was worse for me than all of those experiences in the past.
When they finally finished looking, the man asked if we could sit for a bit, and he’d like to share his thoughts. Actually I was nervously anxious to hear them.
He told me that he’s working on his doctorate in psychology at the University of Washington. The woman was his fiancé. And he said that what brought him to tears was the fact that my drawings were of absolutely beautiful women. In his opinion I really captured their external beauty. But…when he looked into the eyes of each woman, he said that I absolutely captured each one’s emotional pains. Then he said, what he really could see in my artwork, was that physical beauty is really only skin deep. The truth of the soul of each of these ladies is what I had captured. And that I hid that truth under was the beauty of the hats.
I was overwhelmed. Wow! And what did I learn? A lot about hiding pain. I always admired my sister. Years later I learned about her pain. I never really studied her eyes.
Two weeks later, the woman phoned and said that she wanted to purchase “Woman VI.” He had chosen that piece for his doctoral graduation gift. The drawing below is the one that brought him to tears.
Hope you enjoyed this little exercise in capturing beauty. I still love this series!
Enjoy this series of 15 famous painting of women. They’ve inspired me. https://artincontext.org/famous-paintings-of-women/
Here we go back to the details of my trip to Beijing, China. This chapter is long but you get to visit Beijing along with me.
We arrived in Beijing, China on April 17 1986. China’s sprawling capital, has history stretching back three millennia.
From the China Airlines airplane window, I could see the ground clearly as we almost touched down, but then shockingly and abruptly pulled up, circled, made another approach and finally touched down with a bang. My heart beating rapidly, we deplaned and were met by a lineup of guards with machine guns.
Welcome to the beginning of the open door policy, before modernization. Our hotel reservations were at the first American style, English speaking, Hyatt Hotel. Absolutely No Chinese people were allowed inside and exposed to this decadence.
Al hired a taxi driver and made arrangements for him to drive us daily. Lo was about 25 years old, and became a surrogate son/tour driver for our stay. His regular duties were to drive guests of the Chinese embassy.
My first want was to see and climb the Great Wall. I couldn’t have picked a more windy day. Climbing was so difficult, that I’d take 5 steps and the wind blew me back 5 steps. Needless to say I didn’t really climb very far. Then back at the entrance there were vendors selling their wares. I found the perfect gift for myself and my daughters. Cloisonné bracelets that I love and wear to this day. The price $1.00 US for each bracelet. Of course I bought twenty bracelets.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Wall_of_China
Then Lo took us to National Museum of China, which I described in the previous chapter. I spotted a painting that was incredible. I asked about the artist, who had a local studio. I was given a business card to his gallery.
Dinner was at the historic Beijing Hotel (built by the British in Beijing China) where Al treated our friends to an authentic Chinese dinner.
For starters he ordered…
also known as preserved eggs, hundred-year eggs, thousand-year eggs or black eggs, are a Chinese egg-based culinary dish made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime, and rice hulls for several weeks to several months, depending on the method of processing.
The balance of the dinner was entrees that Al’s customers generally ordered. Yes dinner was extremely authentic and delicious. Other than the eggs I have no idea what we ate, but it wasn’t meals that we order from our local American Chinese restaurant. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Century_egg
I had Lo take us to meet the artist whose painting I loved. This is the gallery that I described in the last chapter. It was where I was honored with a demonstration by the student/disciple of the master. And where I painted his portrait in my past life experience. It is still my most memorable experience of this journey,
Next door to the Art Gallery in Beijing, China was a tiny shop. Tiny really describes this one room, 300 square foot little space, both shop and living quarters with no separating walls or curtain. The shop owner was the first Independent merchant on the street. Amazingly she spoke English, lived in the room with mattress on the floor, with her toddler son, and spoke proudly of her new position in life. Independence was unfamiliar to most people living in the Beijing area.After a very pleasant visit, I purchased a little bowl displayed in her case of wares. I would equate this shop to a resale store. As we left I knew that I helped make her independence memories.
I spent the morning relaxing in our hotel room. Remember that I said no Chinese people were allowed in the hotel. It was about 10 am and a knock on the door. There stood the student/disciple and his interpreter. To this day I don’t know how they found us. (possibly our driver told them our name, room etc) Wearing a rag tucked into his coat to look like an ascot and his interpretation of an independent artist. I invited them in and ordered room service. We had our tea and visited for several hours. He was an art image that I shall never forget. He arrived with two gifts. A chop carved in ancient Chinese of my surname. And a poem on parchment rolled and done in ancient Chinese calligraphy ( as I had seen at the Art Museum the day before.)
Purpose of the Visit
Our visit was all about his questions of what it’s like to be an artist living in freedom. He wanted to hear about my art education, my studio, my choice of subject matter. What is required of an artist and are there any rules once you leave art school. My choice of art mediums? I know that he definitely had to be one of the protesters three years later in Tiananmen Square. The Tiananmen Square protests were student-led demonstrations calling for democracy, free speech and a free press in China. They were halted in a bloody crackdown, known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, by the Chinese government on June 4 and 5, 1989.
What I never really got was this wonderful student artists name. But my thoughts are always with him. I pray he survived the massacre.
Our evening dinner was at the Peking Duck in Beijing, China restaurant.
( Chinese government gets quite cross about English speakers using the name Peking for their capital city, insisting on the more modern transliteration Beijing.) Of course we ate very, very fatty, I mean FATTY, Peking Duck. Actually it was delicious and I have never spoiled this memory by eating Peking Duck anywhere in the US.
It’s known today as much for modern architecture as its ancient sites such as the grand Forbidden City complex, the imperial palace during the Ming and Qing dynasties.
The Forbidden City in Beijing, China was constructed from 1406 to 1420. It and was the former Chinese imperial palace and winter residence of the Emperor of China from the Ming dynasty to the end of the Qing dynasty, between 1420 and 1924. Forbidden City served as the home of Chinese emperors and their households and was the ceremonial and political center of the Chinese government for over 500 years.
Pictured below is the drive to the tombs which is lined with sculptures. Al tells me that as tourism increased they had to fence in all the sculptures.
Among these tombs, the largest one is Changling Tomb, which was built in 1413 and is the burial place of Zhu Di, the third Ming emperor and the chief of Ming Tombs. It is not only the largest one, but the best-preserved one among the thirteen tombs.
the burial place of the 13th Ming emperor, an underground palace was excavated. It is in the southwest of Changling Tomb in Ming Tombs. It is the tomb of the thirteenth emperor Zhu Yijun (Reign Wanli) in Ming dynasty. Except for the king, two queens are also buried too. The mausoleum was built in 1584 ~ 1590.
It is the only one of the Ming Dynasty Tombs to have been excavated. Visitors are allowed to see the underground palace and the two exhibition rooms above the ground to view the fabulous cultural relics buried with the dead. The excavation revealed an intact tomb, with thousands of items of silk, textiles, wood, and porcelain, and the skeletons of the Wanli Emperor and his two empresses.
What impressed me was the Empress necklaces The back of the necklace is as detailed and ornate as the front.
Nearby, the massive Tiananmen Square pedestrian plaza is the site of Mao Zedong’s mausoleum and the National Museum of China. In looking into the doorway of the Emporers Tomb, I bumped my ankle on the brass step. In pain I stepped up on the brass doorway. A monk appeared and politely told me to get off that step. Years later I was watching the movie The Child Emperor . As he walked over that doorway I again felt my ankle pain.
6 th day
Today Lo is taking us for a tour of his life in Beijing, China. We visited the daycare where his niece went to preschool. He introduced us to the teacher and the children. The teacher had us sit down as the children sang for us. This was a precious time that I’ll never forget. Their little voices were so happy that I can still hear them when I close my eyes.
For lunch Lo chose a restaurant where the embassy guests always chose to eat. Lo did not join us, but waited in the car. As we entered, there was a large pond in the entrance. In the pond was a giant salamander. The tables were for 8 and all of the tablecloths were filled with spit-out chicken bones from the last guests. To seat us at the table, the hostess threw napkins over the bones. That meant we were honored guests.
Al ordered our lunch, told them to give us their specialty. A man from across the table came over and introduced himself in English. He said he was here from Shanghai and wanted to know what we were doing here in this part of Beijing, and in this restaurant. The man was extremely nice, told us to enjoy our meal and left. When we left the restaurant the pond in the lobby was now empty. No giant salamander, and to this day I wonder what we ate. I can guess! I’m sure you can too.
Time to return to Hong Kong. Lo took us to the Beijing, China Airport and we sadly said goodbye. Thanked him for his kindness and wished him well.
At the ticket counter someone tapped on my shoulder. There stood my new artist friend and the interpreter. They rode the bus for hours so that they could say goodby and tell us how much our visit meant to them. They traveled and used up most of their monthly money allocation on that bus trip. I will always treasure those two wonderful people. This is the art highlight of my life.
I did it!
COD Street Fair closed March 8, 2020.
I definitely needed to show my art somewhere, so on January 1, 2021, I opened an Etsy shop. Of course I took a class on how to do that, and voila…here’s my Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/JackieJacobsonArt
It is amazing how Etsy works. There are currently 3.14 million active sellers on the Etsy website. In my second week on Etsy I received an order. That is truly amazing. And the orders kept coming in. When I reached 100 sales, Etsy made me a top gift seller.
I also created a new website where I’ve listed the best sellers from my Etsy shop, and where I can offer my email friends special discounts, new introductions, and fun stories. Check it out here: https//:jackiejacobson.com
Then came the email last week, that the COD street fair will reopen in January 2022. Now I had to make a big decision. Do I want to wake up at 3:20 AM every Saturday and Sunday and work till 3:00 PM? I decided that it’s time to retire from that schedule.
So if you’re in the Palm Springs area, please give me a call. My studio is open by appointment where I have all my artworks available for purchase at Special Street Fair Prices. If you’re not in town, but have items that you’d really like, give me a call. I’ll definitely save you some money, and can now ship anywhere.
I’ve Retired from Street Fairs. YEAH!
Let’s Get to China – Beijing China
If you were raised by my mother, you were told to finish all of your food. Leave nothing on your plate. Why? Because there’s children in China who are starving, so I was not to waste any food.
I do recall, being about 7 years old and at the sand beach in Michigan with my friends. We would dig, and dig some more. Our goal was to dig deeper with the hope of getting to China. Somehow I recall thinking that it was possible to achieve that goal.
Well it’s 1986 and as I’ve said, Al was spending much of his work time in and around mainland China. He took me to Hong Kong several times for a long weekend. But now with his tons of free United Airlines miles, and my having a general manager, we planned a three week trip, starting in Hong Kong, and ending in Beijing. There it was. My childhood fantasy being realized. I guess we dug deep enough. I was now at the Hong Kong airport on my way to Beijing.
We were in line, waiting to board our flight, when I thought that I recognized a couple a few lines away. They looked like the Berks. They were with another couple who I also recognized from our townhouse neighborhood in Chicago. We had all lived in close proximity when our children were in grammar school. Al and I left that area when our kids were getting ready for high school and somehow had lost touch with most of that community. We ultimately left Chicago and explored living on the great west coast.
Beijing China – It’s a Very Small World
It was now 20 years later and life has a funny way of reuniting old friends. Yes we were booked on the same flight with Nort, Renee, Marilyn and Eddie. They were on a tour, and staying in the first and only (at that time) American hotel, The Sheraton Beijing. We tried to get added to their tour but that wasn’t possible. So plans were, to spend their one free night together, where Al would be their tour guide. He took us to his favorite Chinese restaurant in Beijing, at the Beijing hotel. It was incredible to reunite, and it seems that Renee and Nort were living in Hong Kong and invited us for Passover dinner on our return to Hong Kong. Talk about small world happenings. But I have digressed.
Al was to be my tour guide, and he had a whole adventure planned for me. But of course he needed a driver, and one that could speak a little English, to take us on his tour of Beijing. Outside of the Beijing airport, he hired a taxi driver who was free for a week of touring. He made plans for Lo to pick us up every morning at 8 am and drive us to Al’s chosen sites. So off we went to Tiananmen Square, to the Emperors tomb (many stories below ground), to the Great Wall and the Beijing Art Museum, to name a recognizable few.
It was at the National Art Museum that Lo joined us and acted as our interpreter and guide. The show was an exhibit of Japanese and Chinese calligraphy. Lo played a game with me. I was to guess if the piece was Japanese or Chinese. It took no time for me to recognize the difference between the two culture’s manner of expression artistically.
I learned a lot about the nature of the Japanese culture from Al’s boss Mr. Yano, who stayed with us at our home in Seattle. His directness showed in all of his mannerisms. And that directness is what I could see in the Japanese calligraphy. The Chinese, on the other hand, are much more gentle and humble. Their calligraphy had curves and a lighter quality to their brushstrokes .
In the gift shop of the museum, we purchased bookmarks and paper cuts, that still hang in my studio to this day. But I also saw a piece of art that I fell in love with. The sales person gave me a card from the artist. And now we were at the second coincidence of this trip. On Al’s many, many trips, he always bought me some Chinese art supplies from a small shop in an area called, LiLuLiChang. The interpretation was Portuguese trading area. All of the buildings were faced with Portuguese tiles.
Beijing China – The Artist Studio
The artist, whose card was now in my hand, was located in the LiLuLiChang area. So off we went to find this artist. We entered the front of the shop, were greeted in Chinese by the only person there. I presented the card, pointing to the artists name and she held up a finger indicating she would return. She disappeared behind the hanging curtained doorway, and returned with a woman who could speak some English.
This woman apologized, and said that their master was not available but that his disciple was asking to show me around and she would interpret for me. We now were led to the back room studio behind those burgundy curtains.
The disciple, who was maybe 19 years old, told me about what the art study was under a master artist. He had to master three art forms. Calligraphy, horse painting, and chop carving. And what he’d like to do, as his guest, was to demonstrate how he paints a horse painting. We were seated in front of this humble man, who used Chinese ink and brush, and slowly and gently moved his brush on the rice paper. After about thirty minutes he finished the piece of art and presented it to me.
In appreciation for his kindness, I felt a need to reciprocate. And so I asked if I could do his portrait, explaining that my specialty was portrait painting. He said yes and I asked him to sit in my seat. There we were, the four of us, with another four watching, in Beijing China, artist to artist, interpreter to interpreter.
I took his spot at the table. All that I had to draw with was a pencil. He gave me his roll of rice paper, but the pencil would not work at all. I looked over at the pot of ink and brush, and asked if I could use them. And was told he would be honored to watch me with his art media.
So I lifted the brush out of the pot of ink and saw that the bristles were about two inches long and floppy. This brush was unlike any I had ever used. And the ink was thick, not runny like inks that I had used before. I recalled his holding the brush, not like a pencil, but clutched in the palm of his hand. As he painted he moved his whole body in order to move the brush, and now I know why.
I actually moved into a meditative state, and once the brush was moving, I swear I was in a past life experience. I suddenly felt at home with the tools. I started the drawing with his eye and recall nothing after that. It took about twenty minutes and my last brush stroke was to draw, with one swift and deliberate stroke, the cowlick on the top of his head. At the end of that stroke I heard what sounded like a hundred hands clapping. It seems that in my trance-like state, I had attracted a crowd of about 30 people. To this day I don’t know where they came from, But in Al’s photo of me painting in Beijing you can see some of them.
I signed, wrote a thank you note and presented the piece to this gentle artist. He was honored and so was I. Yes this was the highlight of my art career.
I hope that I have taken you to China with me. Imagine this, we did dig deep enough in the sand and we reached China together. In Hoyt Axton’s words,”Joy To The World and joy to you and me.” Life’s adventures are joyful experiences, so I’d love to hear about some of your adventures. Just write them down and share. Bring your joy to the world!
NEXT CHAPTER… more about my new artist friend in Beijing
10 Best Beijing Art Museums
Manage & Travel
My life has become a series of trips to NewYork and managing 3 stores. Yes I had a manager in each of the 3 stores. My free time was buying trips to New York, 3-4 times a year.
What happened next? My pal Al fell in love with a down comforter line he was buying for the stores. The company was in Japan and the comforters were manufactured in China. Al phoned the owner, who lived in LA and told Mr. Yano that he’d love to represent them nationally. And of course Yano was absolutely up for that idea. So Al took the job and left me a new inheritance.
I inherited the 3 stores and the fun (that’s a joke.) I did go to market in NewYork at the same time that Al was showing his down comforters in NewYork. We actually stayed in different hotels. He was with his sales team at the Grand Hyatt, I was closer to the linen showrooms and the Art Museums at the Hilton.
Al and I did get to have dinner a couple of the nights he was in NewYorkbut of course with the Japanese enclave. Many of my first week nights I was entertained by the sales reps. Broadway shows and dinner. One year I saw the same broadway hit 2 nights in a row. (The reps don’t check with their competitors about what shows they’re taking me to.) I stayed on for a total of 10 nights, 5 for work and 5 for art. That was a bonus to myself. I visited one art museum and at least one gallery a day for those extra 5 days. And I ate in my favorite delis and pizza places (enough of that rich food.)
I was also a big hit in the showrooms with my new note taking device. Yes this started my technology fetish that exists to this day. It was the new Newton by Apple Computer. They introduced Newton in 1987, and I bought it instantly. It’s an early device in the PDA category.
Personal Digital Assistant (the Newton originated the term) was the first device to feature handwriting recognition.
The best part of my weeks in NewYork was also about my wardrobe. Considering that I no longer was willing to be dressed by professionals, and lose myself ever again, I chose 4 black dresses for my trip. Easy to pack, the “little black dress” (little is correct, I was skinny then) And my distinctiveness were the incredible scarves that I added to the little black dress. The scarves were an art piece, and made my look very unique. They actually were my jewelry. I was comfortable and traveling was easy. One medium suitcase for 10 days…not bad!!!
Al spent at least 19 days to 2 weeks a month in China working with the factories, and eating Chinese food????. It seems that Japan and China are really enemies, so Al became the company’s go between Japan and China.
Those trips to New York museums made me really miss the canvas, the paint, the paper and my first passion painting. But I had these stores and no time for art.
On one of Al’s weeks home we planned a trip to the California wine country with friends. It had to be brief because I couldn’t leave the stores for more than ten days. On our way down we stopped at a small motel in Yreka CA. The owner was a woman who had just bought the motel with her retirement from a tech company in San Francisco. I asked how she was going to handle all the work of a motel. She said, “Oh I have a general manager. I only do this one day a week.”
The final wine country destination was a bed-and-breakfast in a two story restored old home in the center of Healdsburg.. The first floor was a jewelry shop, second floor was a B&B. The owner was an enthusiastic and energetic woman who was up at 5 am baking biscuits and then serving home cooked breakfast at 8am (she baked and made the incredible food) After breakfast she was changing sheets, cleaning rooms and more. There she was in the late afternoon turning down beds with the same energy that she had at 5 am. And here I was, exhausted from owning these 3 stores. I asked her how she does this. She said, “Oh I have a general manager. I only do this one day a week.”
Well there it was. The big message and I got it.
I went back to the shop and hired a general manager. Michael became the key to my studio. What a blessing that trip was for me. I’ll never forget those two ladies. They changed my life and my art career.
PAINTING BY BARBARA NECHISBarbara Nechis in her Studio
Here’s the first thing that I did after Michael was on the job for 6 months. I loved an artist who lived in Calistoga, California. Barbara Nechis is a world renowned watercolorist. Once a year she teaches in her incredible architect designed studio, sitting on the vineyard she and her husband owned. The studio had views of Sterling Winery. I phoned, signed up for both weeks, drove down, and left there very skilled in watercolor, and a new fondness for wine?
Barbara and I are definitely kindred spirits. I painted in watercolor for the next 10 years. Although I didn’t continue painting with watercolor, I certainly have great respect for those who do. My love for oil paints and the smell of turpentine won me back. But thanks to Michael I was back in the studio.
See her original painting on the link above. As a treat also check out Barbara’s book …. Watercolor from the Heart: Techniques for Painting the Essence of Nature by Barbara Nechis It’s in your local library or on Amazon.
In the next chapter you’ll learn about the highlight of my art career. Stay tuned.
My Inheritance – in Bellevue Washington
After Al’s phone call I agreed to go into the store and help with the books, a couple days a week. That lasted for 2 weeks. The couple days became 5 days a week, then 7 days a week. But then my creativity, entered the store. Down came the drapery fabric samples and up went a 40 foot hexagonal glass cube wall. Each cube held a different color group of throw pillows. There were 50 cubes that became an impactful color palette. The wall was definitely a piece of art.
Here you see my color idea only in hexoganal glass cubes
Next I added glass cubes and shelves with top brand sheets and towels. More color. Then bed pillow, shams and bedskirts. We renamed the store Bedspread and Linen House and much of my creativity went into this new project. Yes I was being creative. Of course I hired a store manager so none of us had to work the 9-9 shifts.
And what was Al doing. First he added down comforters to our assortment. And then custom made down comforter covers from any of our sheet patterns. Then Al was out looking for a 2nd location with the guy who owned the shoe store, next door. The second location was in the city of Seattle. Our manager ran the Bellevue store and we ran the new Seattle store.
I really liked being back in a city so I didn’t mind the second store. There was a mattress store next to our store. One day a sales rep from a company who sold merino wool mattress pads stopped in, after showing his pads next door. They were partially interested and he thought he’d give us a try. I had never seen or felt a wool mattress pad. It was unbelievably incredible. And since they are warmer in the winter, cooler in the summer, hypoallergenic, and a ton more benefits, I was very, very interested. So at the end of our meeting I purchased the whole next shipment. That meant 500 wool mattress pads. No my inheritance wasn’t money, but I have more courage than I knew I had.
YIKES…what was I doing??? Have I lost control of Jackie again? I spent a couple of days meditating. My question …where has the artist Jackie gone off to?
My Inheritance was My Newest Art Project
Then I saw the whole picture and what to do with my inheritance. When I left art school my goal was to create affordable fine art for real people. Meaning I was not wanting to be represented by a gallery or an art broker. But rather to show my work to people who love art and have limited amounts of money for art.
Well here I am. My newest art project is a collaboration. I’ve never done an art project with another artist. But I must say, this time the other artist is the creative man that I married. He thinks fast on his feet, puts it all together in a moment and is ready to move on. His method is unlike my experience of 8-10 weeks on a painting. In the end I have a piece of art. So my partner and I make a perfect pair to work on this bedding project.
I’m the artist who could stay with it. I’d refine it, reflect on it, then begin more refining and reflecting. In the end it usually matches my goal; an affordable piece of fine art.
Affordable is the keyword here. Since the concept of BLH ( I love acronyms) is to sell affordable high fashion bedding, it really is an art project. Now I was really invested.
I’d spend at least one hour a day on the sales floor listening to customers comments and objections and make sure that I’d addressed those issues. It was always a lesson about my buying, the displays or the sales presentation and focus. I also spent one day a month doing sales seminars with the staff around those customer reviews. Yes STAFF, the hardest part of this project. I really was meant to work alone, or like this project, with one other person. Now I have a STAFF.
What did I cover in most sales seminars? The importance of working with someone’s most personal and intimate space. Yes, that’s our bedroom and I definitely wanted the staff to be patient and respectful.
Each prospective customer is trying to create their own picture. And that picture does not have anything to do with what color is in fashion, what look is in fashion or any of those magazine ideas.
To me each person should be able to leave excited with what they have selected for their bedroom or any other bedroom in their home. I just kept reminding the staff of this concept. The concept was the backbone of the success of BLH. Yes it was a well accepted shop. It was 2 years before Bed Bath and Beyond opened their first store. So I definitely had a head start in my concept.
My Inheritance and New Departments
Now that I had my inheritance, what did I add to this creation? A kids bedding department including children’s bedtime books. I definitely would sit on the floor of the store, reading books to the kids, while their Mom shopped. That was probably the best part of this project! You can tell that I was longing to be a grandmother. So I practiced with the little visitors.
Then I moved on to the kitchen. Dinnerware, flatware, kitchen linens and of course a huge display of placemats. That was a really fun department. I’d shop the gift shows in Seattle, Los Angeles, and Dallas for unique and artistic items for the kitchen. I was applauded for my broom selection. They were colorful and basically a functional art piece for the kitchen. So every item that I chose for BLH had to be both artistic and useful. Yes I was 2 years ahead of my time.
As part of my interiatance , I would eventually be shopping in manufacturers showrooms in NYC . I’d travel four times a year and was compared to the buyers from BB&B. The sales teams from Wamsutta, Martex and Fieldcrest were always excited to have me shop with them, because my selections were ahead of fashion. What a compliment.
What I’m really proud about is the customer base we built. My concept of make each person who walks through that day know how much they are treasured. Treat these visitors as friends who have arrived to look around and feel really comfortable about visiting.
As an aside, we spent 17 years welcoming people, who returned almost monthly to see what was new. And they were so loyal that when much bigger stores opened, they stayed with BLH. When we moved to Palm Springs (many chapters later) and started to show at the street fair, these loyal people recognized us mostlyfrom Bellevue,Washington and become loyal visitors as they returned on vacation yearly. My concept of affordable art for real people proved to be my success in any art project I became involved in. To this day I’m appreciative of each and everyone of you, as you read my story.
What was Al doing?
As I was busy with the responsibilities of my interitance, what was Al doing? As I said, Al definitely moves on. He heard about a new center opening in the North part of Seattle. The anchor tenant was going to be Mervyns, and since he knew of them from his travels, he selected a store in that new shopping center. That makes store three. And 40 employees.
My bottomline is that I was definitely creating, but after a few years I began to miss the canvas, the paint, the paper and my first passion. What do I do now? But now I had a big project, my inheritance.
You’ve got it…that’s the next chapter.
Decision Time – I Found Jackie – My Goal Achieved
Decision time has arrived. I signed up for the classes in Tahoe to sort myself out. So after 3 years I moved out of despair and into undreamed-of solutions. I would run up to Tahoe, take six weeks of classes and teach six weeks of classes. Then back and hangout in LA for a few weeks (no maybe just two weeks) then back up to Tahoe/Carson for more sorting out with my safe group of friends. I now had a connection to a source of wisdom within.
What To Do Now? Decision Time – Move again and where?
My weeks in LA were spent drawing, drawing and more drawing. Oh, I also spent a whole lot of time eating, eating and more eating. Tahoe//Carson had a few good restaurants but LA has a never ending source. My favorite of all times. Canter’s Deli in the Fairfax area. Old world incredible corned beef on rye, with a dill pickle is my absolute favorite. And then I’d buy cakes and treats in the bakery section.
On Saturdays I would go to an offsite branch of UCLA’s art department. Life figure drawing with incredible models. What makes a model incredible? The way they move , and posed their bodies. There’s a rhythm in their movement. It’s like freezing a ballet dancer’s position . Most of all, because many were professional dancers, I’d leave with great drawings. I didn’t really do any painting. But the truth is, painting in oils is my very favorite. I just hated making a mess in the house. So drawing was it.
I spent three years in the Fourth Center with kindred spirits. Everyday felt safe. There were no influencers in my life. I was now completely familiar with Jackie. Spiritually awakened, I loved every minute of everyday. Was it time for the big decision? I wondered, what would happen if I left this safe mountain community permanently? Would I lose myself again? Or could I bring my higher energy to a new business and social community, and be a positive force in a whole new place?
You got it. Time to move on. But where would we go. Al decided to retire from his “national on the road” textile sales career. And since Al couldn’t live in Tahoe or Carson’s elevation, we agreed it had to be closer to sea level. Since I couldn’t breathe in the smog of LA, it had to have fresh air. And we both agreed that very cold weather was not for either of us.
So I put the Carson house up for rent. Looked at a map with Al. and he suggested looking in the Seattle area, where he had some wonderful friends who were customers. Airplane ticket and maps in hand, we flew off to Seattle. I took out a map of the Seattle area and a pin and literally threw it at the map. The pin landed on the City of Redmond, Washington. It was east of Seattle, but Al’s best customer lived in the next town. As the plane flew over Mt. Rainier I saw heaven, and immediately said, “this is perfect. I definitely want to live here.”
We got into our rental car, and on the road to find our new residence. Drove all over Redmond and it did not interest me, at all. There was not one appealing house, downtown area, or shopping. But we kept driving and looking.
Frustrated we decided to head out to Al’s friend. As we were driving, I looked up the hill at a beautiful area that did really did appeal to me. It overlooked a valley, and I wasn’t far off from my Redmond map idea. Right there on the Woodinville-Redmond road was an open house sign. Why not look. The gates to the area read Hollywood Hills. Ironic, that we’re leaving LA right near Hollywood, and we’re looking in Hollywood Hills. Is this a sign?
And of course it was a brand new house, on a horse acre. Yes ir was the perfect house. A wooden footbridge led us to the front door. the house was a Northwest contemporary with 3 bedrooms, a great kitchen and living area with a large deck that was 3 stories high. It was definitely on a hill. On the lower level was an unfinished 1800 sq ft unfinished room with plumbing and another deck. And below that a storage room. Both decks overlooked Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery. And that unfinished room could definitely be my art studio. It was so perfect that before nightfall we purchased the house.
Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery
What attracted me to Woodville? Although it was in proximity to a large city, Woodville was soooo quaint. The house was one mile from town. There was a stop sign which indicated you’ve arrived. You’re in town, which had a grocery store, a bank, a feed and grain store, an incredible nursery, a restaurant, and a strip joint. That was it. Downtown Woodinville.
Now the project was to sell the adorable little house in LA. When we left Thousand Oaks we purchased this little house in West Los Angeles, built in 1932, and lived in by only one couple. It had stained glass windows in the front, cherub sculptures adorned the ceilings, and hand carved wooden swinging doors between the dining room and kitchen. And for Al, a 48 year old rose garden. It was in a choice location, and we actually sold it in a week.
I knew what I was going to do in Woodinville. You’ve got it. Paint in that incredible studio. And the big question…what was Al going to do in Woodinville, Washington?
Some of Al’s customers, who manufactured bedspreads, convinced him to open a bedspread store. I pleaded with him not to do that. My father was an interior designer, who retired from his incredible job. He opened a drapery store. And as a 14 year old kid who was good at math, I worked in his store, figuring up his custom drapery orders. My Dad was not at all happy with his decision. He continually talked about how difficult it was to own a small retail store.
So I again pleaded with Al not to do the same thing with his retirement money. But I wasn’t able to convince him to do something else. Like maybe buying a small house, renovating it and selling it. Al’s a really handy guy and that would be a perfect thing for him to do as a retired young guy.
Instead, he spent weeks looking for a space to rent. He ultimately rented a store in a brand new and the first discount shopping center in Bellevue, Washington. The anchor tenant was Loehmann’s, a large discount clothing chain. Al’s location was two doors from Loehmann’s. He setup the store as a warehouse, with steel shelves filled with bedspreads, floor to ceiling. He named it Bedspread Warehouse. Of course his fabric customers, from his now retired career, also convinced him to offer custom draperies. So he put up a wall of drapery samples and one of his old customers made his drapery orders. Memories of my father and his drapery store. I shudder when I think of it.
New Art Life
In the meantime I discovered the Bellevue Art Museum, where I volunteered 2 days a week. That immediately introduced me to the local art community. I met a couple of artists who told me about a Saturday life figure drawing group in downtown Seattle. Within a month I was part of the Seattle area art community. After a few months I was actually offered the opportunity to teach life figure drawing in my studio. The Seattle Art School (later to become The Seattle Art Institude) did not offer life drawing classes and referred their students to me. I was able to set up a model and have 12 students in my wonderful studio. I was in heaven and so were the students.
A brief aside….Here I am, a Chicago born and raised woman, with a house in anything but a city. My class is underway and everyone is busy drawing the model when there was a loud bang on the glass doors to the deck. I ran to the doors to discover a cow. Yes a cow! It seems the house at the bottom of the hill had a cow, a pig and some chickens…And there was city born Jackie dragging a cow down the hill. Your cue…vision that’s and it’s time to laugh…End of my aside.
I actually went back on my word from my Evanston Art Fair days, and volunteered to work at the annual outdoor Bellevue Art Fair. I know it was my positive energy that created this incredible new art life.
Then came the phone call from Al. He hated working in the store, and wondered if I would come into the store and help him a couple days a week. Maybe I could do the books or something and be with him in the store.
Why did he hate his store? Here’s a man who travelled the whole country, sold millions of yards of drapery fabric nationally, and he couldn’t believe he just spent over one hour with a customer who couldn’t decide between two twelve dollar throw pillows. So much for his decision to open a store.
And that’s where the next chapter begins…and my big test of living in the world, with no spritual group to support me.
SNOW BECAME THE PROBLEM
My dream home/studio in Lake Tahoe became a snow problem. It seems that the builder did a wonderful job with windows. He put a window in any spot that he could see the lake. So I had great window views and a sprawling deck. But his problem was with the roof. He built it at a steep angle not taking into consideration the snow load, and what would happen when the snow melted. Snow: Lake Tahoe gets an average of 215.4 inches of snowfall, or a little under 18 feet.
The snow would avalanche off the roof and take off the deck and stairs to the front door. Actually it did that twice and I had to have the stairs and deck rebuilt, two years in a row. The third spring melt convinced me it was time to leave. So I sold the house to a local police officer who loved it, lived in the neighborhood and didn’t mind having to replace the stairs and deck. He actually bought it with no stairs or deck. The only entrance to the two story house was thru the garage. That is if I could get the driveway plowed, then I could get to the garage. Not always possible!
My next adventure was a little way down the mountain. Down to 4800 feet above sea level from an elevation of 6286 feet. Not as much snow. But definitely higher than our LA home at 305 feet. Yes we left Thousand Oaks and moved to LA. (more on that later)
It was definitely time to explore artist Jackie in an entirely new place. You don’t form as many bad habits if you just keep moving and growing. Onward!
New home/studio was in Carson City Nevada. Carson City is just down the hill from the Fourth Center and my classes at the lake.
With an average of over 265 days of sunshine per year, the pleasant, semi-desert climate is hard to beat! During the summer months, high temperatures average around 90 F; during the winter, around 45 F. Average annual rainfall is approximately 11 inches, and average annual snow is 22 inches.
Less snow, lots of sun. Downtown had the governor’s mansion, and a few small stores, one grocery store, a casino and a brothel nearby. I didn’t work at the brothel (not my talent?, but I did work at the small art supply store, one block from the governor’s mansion.
It seems that the elementary school had no art or music program (budget cut.) So the art supply store was thrilled when I asked if they’d like me to teach children’s art classes. This would definitely be a new experience. I wondered how I would teach these adorable kids. So I decided to do a class similar to the classes I was teaching adults.
I hired models, who dressed up in costumes and I limited the classes to 9 years and older. Every Tuesday or Friday. after school, for two hours. The class size was limited to 6. It was a very small store.
Then there was little Joey, the six year old brother of one of the students. Joey kept pleading with his Mom to take the class. After about three weeks of his crying and begging, I broke my rule and said yes Joey can take the class, starting next Tuesday.
He arrived with the biggest joy-filled smile, and said “Mrs Jackie, thank you so much.” So I walked Joey over to an easel, showed him his materials. Charcoal. Pastels, and charcoal pencils. And his big drawing board with 18×24” paper, just like all the big boys.
My instruction to Joey was to stand back and look at the model (who for this class was dressed as a ballet dancer.) And when he felt ready, to start with the charcoal and to draw her, as he sees her. Then to use the pastel wherever he felt his drawing needed color. Every fifteen minutes I would have the kids stop, stand back, look at the model, look at their drawing and look back at the model. They did their looking for about 5 minutes, drawing for another 15 minutes.Then I’d announce “ You’re done please sign your drawings with the charcoal pencil and also date it.”
Break time meant snacks, and I’d go around the room and ask each one to tell me about their drawing experience. What they liked and what they didn’t know how to do? The project for the next drawing was to work on what they didn’t know how to do. Of course we discussed what they needed to do. Interesting that it took very little instruction.
Then I got to Joey. So I asked, what do you think of your first drawing Joey. And his answer, in a very low but proud voice, “I think it’s damn good.” Priceless answer that I’ll never forget. And truth is I thought it was too. What a cutie Joey was.
THE MUSTANG RANCH
Who was the model. One of my adult student’s aunt was the Madam at the local brothel. The famous Mustang Ranch in Carson City Nevada. She supplied me with models for both my children and adult classes.
And what did I learn there in Carson City. Not much about the oldest profession. But definitely… when someone has a desire to make art, don’t limit them based on age, but respect their passion. When a kid was really not into the class, I told their parent to find another creative outlet. Try music, dance, sports or even cooking/baking. Not everyone is interested in making art, but we’re all creative in some way.
Bottom line…I really loved teaching the kids. My demonstration was how I would draw the model. Nevertheless I was determined not to influence their unique ability. They just needed to learn how to use the materials. And a reminder to look at their model and then at their drawing. The object was to compare what they see to what they drew. The project was always the same…learning to see. I’d help them with ideas of how to approach their problems. My demo was on a different piece of paper or on the side of their paper. I’d make sure to erase it so that they wouldn’t copy me. When they left class, they each left with their own unique creative pieces of art.
Another wonderful move on my part.
VISIT CARSON CITY NEVADA
I said kismet would take care of helping me find Jackie. And Destiny definitely did do that. Just so that you know where to find Kismet, she’s on the same road as my friend Bill’s good friend Serin Dippety.
It was February in Chicago, just two months after my French restaurant experience, when into the door of Al’s greenhouse, walked Kismet. She arrived overnight in the 20 degrees below zero Chicago night storm.
What did Kismet do?
Simply put she froze Al’s greenhouse heater and all of his prize plants in the greenhouse. Al was out on a sales trip and when he returned he found all of his prize plants dead.
Al’s only statement was “That’s it! We’re out of here. We’re putting the house up for sale on Monday.” And in walked Kismet again and the house sold in three weeks. We needed to stay for school year end in June, and that’s how the sale contract was written. But we were preparing.
Al flew off to California, on business and in search of a new house. He found a house immediately in Thousand Oaks California, north of Los Angeles and south of Santa Barbara. I flew out on a midnight flight, met him at 4am and we drove to Thousand Oaks. We had breakfast around 6am at Du Pars Restaurant and Bakery.
Du Pars has been a landmark and one of the best breakfast restaurants in the Los Angeles area. He knew he could win me over with food. He is a really good salesman. And he definitely sold me.
We met the realtor at 9 am. It was in an area called Lynn Ranch. The house was on the edge of a gorge and had a peek view through the canyon to the ocean. The property was perfect for growing tropical plants and palm trees. It was an ideal replacement for the frozen greenhouse. No freezing weather here. By noon the papers were signed and we would be moving to Thousand Oaks in June.
Enter my cousin Evelyn, who was more than family to me. She was my dearest friend and basically my older and very wise sister. I was the oldest sibling in my birth family and she was the youngest in hers. A few years before our move to California, Evelyn had moved to the Berkeley area, and then to Lake Tahoe. So once again we were going to live near one another. How perfect.
Evelyn had opened The Fourth Center and taught classes in meditation and self-healing. So there was kismet at work again. The classes were six week sessions, and perfect for me, since I was in search of finding Jackie. Eight weeks before our move date, I flew to Lake Tahoe and took that first six week set of classes. I stayed with Ev in her incredible two story, one bedroom cabin, with pot-belly wood burning stove, high up in the mountains on the backside of Squaw Valley. Not a place that most city born Chicagoans would choose to live. No fancy clothes, high heels or false eyelashes. The idea was to learn how to live in the unfamiliar. I was feeling more comfortable than I had in years.
On my walk one afternoon, three lots from the cabin, was a brand new house with a for sale sign. I know I was directed to take that little hike up the road. The house looked exactly like an artist’s home/studio that I had seen some ten years earlier, while in Gatlinburg Tennessee. I programmed it, as I stood in those Great Smoky Mountains, that one day I would have a house/studio just like that.
And here it was, in Tahoma California. Yes, the next day I called a realtor, and made an independent Jackie decision. I bought that house, as a second home and mountain studio retreat. The realtor. friend of Evelyn’s, was Trinkie Watson, who has remained my dear friend to this day. When I phoned Al and told him of my dream realized, he said, “Other women shop for clothes” I was not like other women, but I was in heaven. Mot really heaven but 6286 feet high.
The New Adventure
Evelyn came up with a great idea for me. I could come on an art retreat, and teach drawing classes at the center. I would do them in six week sessions. Of course I had never taught. But her concept was that teaching is a way to learn what you know and what you need to learn. Truth is, I discovered more of me in her classes. That more of me became a really great drawing teacher.
What I taught was a class for people who believed they had no talent. Yes I used all that I had learned about the difference between skill and talent. My students, like me, were in classes learning how to find their authentic self, letting go of their destructive past. And giving that new self some creative expression was a perfect healing.
Teaching on the Road To Finding Jackie
This is how I taught. I taught how to use materials, i.e. charcoal, ink, crayons, and paper. I used live models, and taught many different drawing exercises. Draw without looking at the paper. Draw the model with eight lines, Then with seven, then with six and ending with only five lines. Draw with one continuous line. Do one minute drawings for ten minutes, followed by two 5 minute drawings. Several sets of those short poses, made the final twenty minute drawing feel like you had a ton of time.
One of my favorite memories of a student, was from classes that I taught at the original movie theater in Squaw Valley. The movie theatre and bar was first built for the 1960 Olympics known as the Far East Building.
I stood up on the stage with the model, while the students sat in the theater seats, with their drawing boards in hand and against the seat in front of them. One of the drawing exercises that I was teaching was to draw with your non-dominant hand. That’s a way to really loosen-up your drawings.
Everyone was busy drawing when I noticed Robert. I had totally forgotten that he had only one arm. But there he was, charcoal pencil tucked under the armpit of his missing arm. He was leaning over his drawing board and moving his body to make his marks. He actually did a great drawing. Proving that when there is a desire there is a way.
Stardom and Talent
Another favorite memory is of a phone call from a local area resident. His name, Hoyt Axton, singer and composer of “Joy to the World” He said he heard that I was teaching classes for people who believed they couldn’t draw because they had no art talent. His wife was his pianist, and although she was musically gifted, she believed she had no other talent. So Hoyt made a deal with me. If I taught her to draw and helped remove that belief he would give me a very special gift.
On his upcoming Johnny Carson Tonight Show appearance, he would send a car for me to be his guest. And so a Rolls Royce appeared at my house and took me to the green room. And in that famous green room I watched the show until they returned after their appearance
Dinner at the Axtons
Yes Donna did some great drawings and removed the belief that she could never draw. They also invited me for dinner at their home. Hoyt had published several books of his drawings. He proudly gave me signed copies of three books. Line Drawings: Vol. I and 2 Paperback – January 1, 1973 by Hoyt W. Axton (Author) and I Want You To Be Haopy 1973.
So Hoyt believed that we all have talents that we don’t use. Well I don’t know that they’re talents, but I do know that we all have more than we believe of ourselves. It’s just give that more of ourselves some information and tools, and we can all draw, paint, sculpt, do pottery, sew, cook, or do many other creative projects. And then become professional at it, if we stick with it. I call is stick-to-it-iveness. It’s about inspiration and perspiration.
As I said, I really learned to teach. At the end of the six week set of twice a week classes, I would send each student off to draw, draw, draw. They couldn’t take another class with me for four months, and only if they returned with sketch books filled with drawings. Most people only needed two or three series of classes. They were now skilled and ready to work on their own with the artist that they awakened. I definitely believe that the student never grows as an individual, if they become dependent on a teacher. I definitely didn’t need any more dependents.
This discovery of the authentic Jackie worked really well up there on the mountain top. It was all about me doing my own thing in a community of others on the same path.
The artists life.
The artists life. What’s the artists life like, with a family and friends? Mornings were to get my three kids off to school. And one day a week I drove to piano lessons. Then there were the denists, doctors, orthodontists, groceries etc. Some days I’d volunteer at the art department of the high school.
Back to the Artists Life
The next part of the day I was off to the studio, where I spent too many happy hours. Some days I would get lost in my painting and miss getting home in time for the family’s dinner. Dinner was usually prepared and ready, but sometimes I wasn’t ready to get back home. The studio was my sanity. And that’s the best part of the artists life. Of course, this part of my artists life was supported by my “sugar-daddy.” Yes Al helped me with all of my art life expenses. Therefore those are the expenses that I couldn’t cover from sales of my art.
And then there was my social life. We were friendly with two couples who lived in our area. One couple was extremely wealthy and did nothing all day. Their drug habit took up most nights. But their lives came to life on the weekends. The other couple worked as women’s clothing reps. They sold high end and very high fashioned clothing.
Now the clothing couple felt that I definitely needed their help. They didn’t approve of one thing that I owned. So they were my fashion gurus. They selected my clothing and often gave me samples to add to my wardrobe. In other words, on weekends I was dressed by my friends.
Let’s talk about my regular wardrobe.
My wardrobe basically consisted of jeans and tennis shoes. The majority of my artists life wardrobe was embellished with oil paints.
Well, except for my weekend, ”go out for dinner with friends’ choice of clothes”; none of which I chose. All were chosen for me
Then there was my weekday makeup and jewelry.
I wore none except for my wedding ring.
But on the weekend I tried to follow my glamorous sister’s guidance. Makeup done by the Chicago area makeup artist for the models, Marilyn Miglin Studios. Skin, lips and eyes by Miglin. Eyes were the most fashionable false eyelashes made for both top and bottom lids.
Yes I was a mannequin who socialized every weekend with her fancy friends. We frequented the finest restaurants in Chicago, mostly Italian and French. The artists life socially was not really me. That woman could fit into any Neiman Marcus display window.
And then came the evening that definitely did me in.
Here’s the details of the evening. We drove down to Michigan Avenue. Our car was given to the doorman and we climbed the stairs to the most elegant intimate French restaurant in Chicago. We were seated in this candlelit, quiet, very quiet little space. It was dark by normal standards, so dark that I was having a really hard time reading the appetIzer menu. After ordering our cocktails I heard Gloria say ”just bring us the left hand page.”
For a moment I thought I heard her wrong, so I said, Gloria did you just order the left hand page of appetizers? Yes she said. There were about 12 or 15 appetizers on that page. Quietly I asked “Why would you have done that?” Her answer, “how will we know how they all taste if we don’t try them?” I sat quietly for a moment, swallowed hard and realized I was lost. REALLY Lost!
I stood up and said, “I can’t do this anymore. And I started peeling off my eyelashes, then I took off the jewelry, one ring at a time. I removed the very uncomfortable fashionable jacket, and off came the necklace and those perfect bracelets. I turned to Al and said I don’t know who I am. Jackie is stuck between their world and reality and this is crazy. I have to leave and I am now in search of Jackie. She’s somewhere in here I know, as I tapped on my chest and said….
I can’t play this game of let’s pretend for one more minute.
My announcement was that I love all of you, but our values do not blend with one another’s values. I have to leave. I’ll take a taxi home. I’m going on a search for Jackie.
That was the last time that I wore makeup, fancy clothes, high heels and the rest of the costume. No more dress-up for 10 years. Oh and I gave up wine and French food too.
What did I do next? Kismet took care of that.
My inspirations life
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The Model is a Belly Dancer
This story is another about drawing from the model. The model was a belly dancer. I’m back with my art career, and all distractions are in the rear view mirror. And I’m drawing or painting at least 5 days a week.
So I’ve reunited with many of my artist friends. I’ve put out the word that if someone is hiring a new model, I’m really interested.
I must tell you about hiring models
With so many art schools, art groups and artists in the Chicago area, there aren’t many models doing the circuit. After a while it does get really boring, drawing and painting the same model week after week.
The model who I remember vividly is a guy who posed in costume. I had him all through art school. His costume was Napoleon Bonaparte. I know you don’t need to see one of my drawings. Your imagination is absolutely correct. Weird. Very weird. And there were many weirdos among the stable of artist models. But this guy looked like Napoleon.
So today I’m going to tell you about my favorite drawing of an artist model. My friend phoned and said that she has found a new model and has hired her for the next week. Would I like to draw with her and share the model fee? She’s hired a belly dancer, who was new at modeling. The arrangements my friend made with this model is that it would be one pose for the three hour session.
Of all of the models in the Chicago circuit, there were many dancers but none were belly dancers. I was absolutely excited and couldn’t wait til the next Wednesday session.
Wednesday arrived and I drove off to the suburb where my friend lived.
Her studio was in the 4rd floor loft. I arrived to find a note on the door, “We’re in the studio, Just come up“ This trip meant 3 flights of stairs with my heavy leather portfolio, drawing board and my favorite Oak Tag Manila paper. I actually had to stop at the third floor for a breath.
The door to the 4th floor loft was closed, but as I opened it I could hear the music, see my friend and the easel she had set up for me. Now from the bathroom where she had changed into her belly dancing skirt and top, came the belly dancer model.
Her skirt was on just below her navel, her breasts hardly fit in her top, her hair piled high on her head. She may have been a belly dancer, but she weighed somewhere between 350 and 400 pounds. Yes she had a belly, a very big belly.
This surprise model could not have happened in the same month as the last guy that I drew, but it was in the same month. OK what should I do? Leave was one option, but I agreed to pay half the model fee. So I stayed. We spent at least 20 minutes trying to come up with a pose.
The model said she had no problem standing and we agreed to make it just a two hour session, not the usual 3 hours. That meant 2- 20 minute poses with 2-10 minute breaks, each hour.
I did not draw in the first 20 minutes. It took me 20 minutes to setup my easel, side table, and attaching paper to drawing board. I used my favorite oak tag clipped to the board in landscape format, meaning 36” wide by 24” high. and clipped a second piece to a second board. And then I walked all around the model looking for the perfect view for my drawing.
I picked my spot, moved my easel and stuff, and was ready to draw after her first break. The drawing began with her navel at the top of the page and drew just down to her knee (skirt included) Then I clipped the second piece of paper to the first and drew up from the navel to her neck.
At the break the model came over to see what I drew.
She paused, looked at the two pieces of paper clipped together and asked “couldn’t you get all of me on the two pieces?” I was excited to answer, wait until you see the rest. She went back to her pose and I took out a third piece of paper and drew in her legs and feet. I really loved her ankles and toes. And I must say I did a great job on her big toe. Another break and then another piece of paper. And now for the chin to the top of her head. She really had a pretty face and I became fascinated with all of the curves I’d been drawing. Her mouth had beautiful curves, her eyes were really curved and pretty, and her belly the most beautiful of all the curves
I did the drawing with a soft charcoal pencil, which meant for her hair and for her skirt, that I could blend the charcoal. Whereas the rest of the drawing was mostly lines of different weight.
In the end the piece was now 96” tall x 36” wide. I think it was really a masterpiece if I must say so myself. And the model thought so too. I titled it Curves.
Now there were my children and this drawing.
I had the four pieces framed individually in a narrow black moulding and hung them on the dining area wall. My chair at the table faced that wall. My three children sat at the side of the table and hated that they had to look at her through every meal of 5 years. But of course they were embarrassed that there were naked people on many walls of our house.
It was difficult growing up with a Mom who was an artist. Their friends, on the other hand, thought it was cool.
Well there you have it, Two of my favorite artists model stories.
No more about model stories. You now know what it’s like to hire models. Onward to some interesting parts of this art career.
10 Famous Belly Dancers
My Painting of Celebrities
Effective next story, I’m moving the schedule to every other Friday. I’m apologizing to you for the change, but I’m actually too busy painting, website upgrade and story writing. So I’m slowing down and so is my publishing schedule. See you with the next story in two weeks.
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Photo -JACKIE – 1972
Life Figure Drawing
As good fortune would have it, weeks after I closed Botany House I got a phone call from my art school life figure drawing instructor. He knew that I loved to do life figure drawing from an artists model.
George said that they have formed a group of Chicago area illustrators who worked for local newspapers and ad agencies. He told me that they meet every Thursday evening, 5 to 8 pm, at his downtown Chicago studio. He was wondering if I’d be interested in joining them. And actually after the session, they all go out for dinner at a local Greek restaurant.
What a great way of getting back to my art career and to good Greek food. George is Greek so the food has to be good. And surrounded by professional illustrators would definitely be inspiring. Drawing from the artists model is my favorite weekly exercise.
The following Thursday I packed my large black leather portfolio with a stack of 24×36” oak tag manilla colored papers. That color and size was always my favorite. Sturdy in body it didn’t wrinkle and stayed flat against the backboard I used to clip the paper onto. Of course I had other pads of paper but I loved the 24×36” size. My favorite drawing tools were charcoal pencils. which danced and sang on the smooth manila color paper. Occasionally I used very thin black ink pens.
I arrived about a half hour late, heavy traffic from the suburbs to downtown Chicago. Then it took time to find parking. I trekked up the narrow creaky staircase with my large and very heavy portfolio in hand. I opened the door to the second floor studio where there were about 10 men, yes only men, seated and busily drawing from the model.
The model was on a model stand in the corner of the room, and everyone formed a semi-circle around him. As I walked around the room to find an open space and easel to set up for my drawing area, I noticed that not one of the artist’s drawings included the model’s penis. It was as if the model came without one. Amazing, these were professional illustrators, who were very used to details.
The model was a male, black man, nude with the longest penis I had ever seen. Now understand we had plenty of nude male models all through my art school years. So when I say the longest penis that I have ever seen, I have seen and drawn many and this was the longest!
So I set up my 24×36” tall paper and started at the top with the model’s navel. I decided to go to mid-thigh and to do a portrait of the part of the anatomy that none of these guys could see. I made this drawing extremely detailed since it was a closeup “Portrait of a Penis” my title. On the 10 minute break I continued to add details to my drawing, since I arrived late. Remember this was a life sized or larger than life drawing.
As the guys took their break, word got out to take a look at my drawing. They’d stretch, yawn and wander near the windows behind me to see what I was doing. After the break they returned to their spots and continued on what was this long one hour pose, with two ten minute breaks.
As is customary in a long drawing pose, you would walk up closer to the model to see details that are hard to observe from a distance. Those were usually details in the face, but not in this case. And so I did walk up close to observe veins, hair etc that I chose to include in this once in my art career drawing. On completion I think it was one of my finest drawings ever. But most of all it was a statement to these guys who were there to draw, but obviously intimidated.
As for me it was how I introduced myself to my new found art friends. We ultimately did become art buddies and I can report that they did include all parts of the anatomy in their drawings after they took their break and saw my drawing. It’s a fun memory. I actually can’t share the drawing because it was sold to a silver and goldsmith artist who loved the scale I chose for this portrait. Goldsmiths work on tiny detailed pieces.
This could have been another piece in the “Erotica” series, but I didn’t repeat the moment or that kind of portrait again. I really prefer drawing faces. It was a fun moment in time in this lengthy art career.
The Art of Modeling
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Al Collected Bromeliads
About Al’s Hobby
My pal Al had a great greenhouse and he specialized in bromeliads. His plant collection of bromeliads was world class. Al learned all that he knew about this family of plants from the man who discovered them in Costa Rica.
Al met Mulford Foster on one of his business trips to Florida. Mulford brought back live plants from Costa Rica and recorded them with the Smithsonian. The two men became good friends, Foster in his very late 80’s and Al in his mid 40’s.
Al’s territory was national but somehow he kept flying off to Ocala Florida where Foster “father of Bromeliads” recreated a rain forest on his property which was filled with the original plant species he discovered. Al would come home to Chicago, suitcase in hand filled with gift plants from Foster, which were wrapped in newspaper and slightly damp. The bromeliads got potted up, put out on our patio and neighbors and friends would buy every single one.
Word got out about Al’s collection when Better Homes and Gardens was starting a new magazine. They approached him for an article and an introduction to his mentor.
Well it wound up that they photographed and featured me in Al’s greenhouse with his incredible bromeliads. Those are the plants that were my models for my Northwestern University Library art show.
On a trip to Florida Al had a brainstorm. His brilliant idea was that in the center of Northbrook Illinois, the Chicago suburb where we lived, was a wonderful old historic house that was for rent. Al’s idea was to rent the house and open a plant shop on the first floor. And we could use the second floor for art studios, where my studio partners and I would all paint and sell our art and be a wonderful artistic attraction. We submitted our idea along with a rental application. Al flew off to Florida and ordered $3000 worth of bromeliads from several growers.
Yes you guessed right. The city would not approve our rental. But of course the plants were already shipped. And we actually had incorporated the new business which we called Botany House. Great name, no house.
So Al rented a warehouse in a small industrial park. Since he was the family bread-winner he wasn’t ready to quit his job, so I got elected to get his little business started and he would takeover when it was up and running.
I called on some of my art buddies, one who photographed the plants, and one who designed posters and handouts. They created a mailer to send to all florists in the city of Chicago and within a month I had a customer base and an active business. My staff consisted of a 17 year old, one of our sons friends. After school, he did all of the potting, plant care, and preparation for shipping the next days orders. My father now in his 70’s did all of the order deliveries by truck. I had an assistant who shared the office with me and my Dad.
Botany House was an immediate success.
No wholesaler in Chicago carried bromeliads. We were so busy that we had to start importing from Holland. Our first order arrived in time for Valentines Day. The airline unloaded our shipment at OHare airport and left the cases out on the runway in early February. Yes you’ve got it right…the entire shipment froze on that runway, and we lost 90% of our Valentines plant orders. Disaster!
Meanwhile I had not been in my studio for months. Galleries were calling wanting some of my artwork and there I was, running a plant business. My studio partners were asking when I was going to return and I began to wonder if success would end my art career.
In March I asked Al to quit his job and takeover Botany House. He said he would do that at the end of his season. I bought his story, mostly because Al was a very good salesman.
I ordered plants from Hawaii for Mothers Day and was hopeful that soon I would return to making art. The Mothers Day plants arrived in mid April. The plants looked beautiful until the next morning. They were shipped damp, and they all got fungus from the darkness and dampness.
The next morning I arrived at the warehouse and totally black dead plants.
After I finished screaming and crying, I phoned Al in Florida, and told him that by the time he returned home, the business would be dissolved. Yes dissolved, ended, completed…done. Next I phoned our lawyer to immediately start that process, and I phoned a friend who ran a large factory. Then I drove all of the remaining plants that were alive and healthy and sold them off at cost to his 100’s of factory employees. I really meant DONE!
I did a warehouse sale of the office furniture and equipment and Botany House was now history. What remains to this day are a few beautiful handouts and a great magazine article.
Another one year chapter in the adventures of my life has ended. And my goal was to get back to making art.
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Do You Volunteer?
Evanston Art Festival
I was asked to join a group of volunteers to address envelopes. In other words for the following years Evanston Art Festival. Of course I said yes. Nothing hard about addressing envelopes. Moreover, I can print nicely. I arrived to find this very corporate looking group of people seated and dressed in business attire. However they were not exactly who I thought of as artists. I was seated at a long conference table sounding very businessey. The group talked about raising money and the usual cost of the annual event. Above all who would do what and who will head up committees.
I never raised my hand, never asked a question, and never answered any questions. Where were the envelopes that were to be addressed? At the end of the evening I was elected co-chairman of this art festival. In conclusion to this day, I don’t know how they knew I was in the room. And for sure I don’t know how I wound up co-chairman.
And last but definitely not least. I never did get to address envelopes!
My project was titled Fund Development.
Development literally means run around and plead for money from local big businesses. I was told it’s about building relationships that will make those fundraising activities sustainable. Fund development for an art festival involves strategic targeting of prospective donors. In other words clear and impactful communications, and strong internal structures that support philanthropy. Yikes that’s definitely not artistic
The Art Festival Phyical Layout
My other project was to do the physical layout of the festival. The property is right on Lake Michigan, so my plan was for large sculptures, conceptual art, and ceramics to be displayed outdoors. I even used the beach for modern interpretive dance. However the outdoor property would also have the food vendors and music.
For the first time in the art festival history- all visual art would be indoors with a small 3 piece classical music group. I was quoted in the Chicago Tribune that “Visual Art-Drawings and Paintings deserve the respect that an indoor exhibition provides.”
(Remember please that I display and sell my visual art prints at an outdoor street fair in Palm Desert California)
The art festival is in early August on the grounds of the historic Harley Clarke mansion. It is an annual Saturday event with an attendance of 20,000 expected. Therefore I spent one difficult year of volunteer work. The festival work took up most of every day of my life and left me no time for my studio, for painting, for family and for friends.
This art festival was life consuming. I did much of the work because volunteers weren’t easy to come by.
Most of all…I hated fund raising. Asking large corporations for money was not my thing. But I had to do it
Firstly the art festival is a juried art show. Secondly there were over 600 applicants in the visual arts area. Tons of artist wanted to be in this prestigious art festival. Thirdly and most importantly after the jurying only 39 artists showing paintings, prints and drawings were selected. Moreover only 18 sculptors and 15 ceramics exhibitors were chosen. In conclustion It was a tough jury, but a very high quality group of artists were selected. I was very proud of our show.
Showtime Has Arrived
The indoor show got hung on Friday. I couldn’t wait til the morning. And here’s what happened on Saturday morning…
A major rain storm arrived which was NOT forecast at all. Above all I mean STORM. The artists started to set up when it began to pour. I had to call the fire department to block traffic access. Everything had to be moved. After that everyone (the artists and their artworks) were moved indoors…except for the dancers. They were wanting to do their modern dance in the rainstorm on the beach behind the mansion. It was a mess and no one could really attend. However, the storm continued with no letup, thru Sunday afternoon.
One year of work, literally, washed down the storm drains.
Budget wise, I bought thousands of dollars worth of hotdogs, buns and drinks. In addtion they were donated to local churches (the churches were very happy) Therefore, other than for the churches, nothing good came from this event. For instance not for the artists, not for the city, and definitely not for me. Above all, I knew for certain that outdoor art festivals were not my cup of tea, or coffee, or anything liquid. As records have it, this was the first rainout for this annual festival in ten years.
And…I never volunteered for any envelope addressing or chairmanship or for sure fund raising – ever again.
Evanston Art Center today
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One Woman Art Show
Art Show – Northwestern University Library
Would I be interested in having a one woman art show?
On one of my days at the Evanston Art Center I was again approached by a board member, who asked if I would be interested in having a one woman art show at Northwestern University library. I actually had an art show a few months before at a small gallery in Chicago.
But Northwestern was a much more prestigious idea. Pretty exciting for me in a relatively short time after leaving school. I visited the library and saw that it was a very large space. Perfect because I actually had a large body of work on canvas, mostly nudes. In fact 90% nudes, and mostly females. I also felt that it would be comprehensive with just one theme.
The date for the art show was 4 months away. I was beyond excited. Approximately 6 weeks before the show I received a phone call advising me that the press releases have all been released to the major newspapers. That meant the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times and several regional papers. And a photographer was coming to do a photo shoot for a magazine article. Now I was really excited. Not bad for someone whose art career started with paint by number paintings. I think my largest paint by number canvas size was 18”x24”. And this art show would be with canvases most 48”x60”
Then the last minute statement in that phone call. The speaker, “Oh Jackie, were you told that there is one stipulation? Because it’s a public library, you can’t show nudes.” My answer, “You’ve got to be kidding? Nudes is what I have been showing everywhere.” Nudes were my specialty. And that was my body of work. I swallowed hard and said, “then please cancel the show.
She said Jackie, “this isn’t some small town, IT’S CHICAGO. It’s 6 weeks away and if you ever want to show in Chicago again, you can’t cancel.” Now I had a giant dilemma.
I needed to have at least 10 new paintings 48”x60”, my medium was oil paints and they took weeks to dry even if I could paint them. What could I possibly do?
My solution was my small at home art studio. I announced that for 6 weeks I would eat and sleep in our finished basement, and paint in the little 12’x15’ studio. Al stretched 10 canvases for me. And I went to Al’s greenhouse where I selected 10 of his interesting small bromeliad plants. They all were in flower, and the flower shapes were very erotic.
I needed to have at least 10 new paintings 48”x60”, my medium was oil paints and they took weeks to dry even if I could paint them. What could I possibly do?
My solution was my small at home studio. I announced that for 6 weeks I would eat and sleep in our finished basement, and paint in the little 12’x15’ studio. Al stretched 10 canvases for me. And I went to Al’s greenhouse where I selected 10 of his interesting small bromeliad plants. They all were in flower, and the flower shapes were very erotic.
But they weren’t nudes. The plants were in 4” pots and were about 6” tall. I blew them way up in scale, drew them on white backgrounds, and they became erotic shapes of intense color. My solution was to use thin layers of oil washes, layer after layer until they became extraordinary. I slept little and painted joyfully. The family was so supportive, and brought down all my meals.
The completed body of work was seven- 48×60” pieces and one triptych of 30×40”each. I also showed six 18”x24” framed and matted charcoal drawings of these bromeliads.
I called the series “Erotica”. Of course there was no way to keep the background of the canvas white without color splatter. So my final week was to paint a new layer of white paint and I carried the paintings into the art show…WET. Yes wet paint! I had small signs hung that said… WET PAINT. The show was hung the day before opening night. All I wanted to do was sleep.
I arrived on opening night and found a totally crowded show. I mean crowded. At least 100 people. Wine and snacks, happy talk and music. I was overwhelmed. And how was the show received? It Sold Out the first night with an additional 3 custom commissions.
Erotica – Just a Little Pink
One commission was memorable. They wanted the most erotic drawing blown way up but painted in sepia and white with just a little pink. Title of course Erotica – Just a Little Pink. It hung in the window of a Michigan Avenue Hair Salon for years. Then it ended up in a divorce custody battle.
It wound up being moved to Palm Springs California. And.some 30 years after that art show, I too moved to Palm Springs. I actually got to visit that piece …Just a Little Pink. It hangs in a restored mid-century home with the traditional colors of the1950’s… pink and turquoise. How perfect.
And what did this show really do for me. It gave me the courage to leave the familiar and to explore new ideas. And to this day I do that very think.
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INTERESTING ARTICLES ABOUT TALENT
During my three years in Art School I worked evening hours, after my kids were in bed, doing income tax returns for an accountant.
Yes I actually am one of those people who uses both sides of their brain. I took accounting classes when living in St. Louis, so that I could use that skill in our business. It kept me well employed so that I could pay for tuition and art materials.
Right after I graduated art school, we built a new home in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook. Down in our finished basement was my 12’ x15’ art studio. A wonderful room, with a shelf along the wall to hold paintings in progress, and several easels, a table with a glass palette for the oil paints, large bottles filled with paint burshes (at least 50 large sized brushes (nothing smaller than a size 18, with 2 little ones #4 and #6 sable brushes for signing) I always painted with brushes larger than anyone in my art classes.
I also joined the Evanston Art Center, an incredible old mansion on the Lake Michigan waterfront in Evanston IL. It was a great place for artists to gather, exchange ideas, and where classes were offered. In the 3rd floor ballroom, it became an art studio where we had models and drawing sessions several days a week.
On a monthly basis there was an art show of members’ artwork. I entered a show and, amazingly, I was awarded first place for a painting. I no longer have the piece. Unfortunately my whole portfolio is gone. Too many moves, too many moving losses.
But…a few days after the show I was approached by two artists, who were inviting me to share a loft studio that they had in Chicago, right near Loyola University. It was in an old loft building.
The art studio was 6000 square feet, with an additional office and sitting room in the front. The sitting room had windows, and the main space had only a door to a fire escape.
My space was in the center next to the conveyor belt which came up from the loading dock on the street level. I was lucky enough to have a storage room in my space, where I kept all of my canvases and extra supplies.
Ventilation was not to be had, but great company was always available. And every once in a while the conveyor belt would start to work and one or two guys would appear to see who and what I was painting. They loved my nudes.
There were four of us in the back and one person in the front office. Alan was our leader, he collected and paid the rent and ordered the groups art supplies. Alan’s night work was with NBC where he was film editor of the Chicago feed of the Today Show. His art consisted of many 12 foot long paintings of a single goldfish. Remember he was staring at tiny film strips all night.
Eleanor Dixon, Alan’s wife painted small paintings and drawing of imaginary little people. I always wondered about her people until I saw her other artwork. She was a courtroom illustrator who did the best watercolor illustrations of sensational murderers on trial.
And Olga shared the space next to me. Olga was a retired radio actress. After her 30 year career she enrolled in the Chicago Art Institute and graduated with a fine art degree. Olga worked in cold rolled steel which she etched with acid, to create incredible surfaces. And all while she worked she would in the low toned Russian accent of one of her instructors say “ Olga you do not have an artists sensibility.” What she didn’t have was a sense of how harmful to our health those acids were. One afternoon as I painted awaym I looked over her way and she was about to pass out. Thank goodness for the fire escape, where I dragged her half conscious body.
Last episode of the many studio adventures. On my second day in the art studio, Alan said “the reason I invited you to join us is that I could see your potential. But now you have to forget everything you learned in those three years in art school and find Jackie.” She’s not visible in your work but your instructors are.”
It took about a year but I uncovered Jackie.
That’s the artist that you know today.
OK just one more story. Late afternoon and I’m home watching the news. The big news was a 4 alarm fire on Loyola avenue. Yikes, it was the building next to our studio. I grabbed the phone, called Alan and asked if he got us fire insurance. You know he was very much, a typical artist. Details, finances and things like insurance were not his long suit. Of course we didn’t have insurance. Fortunately that fire did not affect our building, thanks to the Chicago Fire Department.
I took over paying all the bills for our studio group. Bought fire insurance and balanced the books monthly. My gift wasn’t that I was born with talent. My real gift is being able to use both sides of my brain. That gift has carried me far in this lifetime.
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INTERESTING ARTICLES ABOUT TALENT
About My Hair.
Now that I have confronted and conquered my lack of ability to draw, it became obvious that it was time to confront my biggest problem in life.
I had this stuff on the top of my head. Now I was a young girl, about age four. No I wouldn’t call it hair, I guess it would be called a bush. Fuzz, fuzz and more fuzz.
My mother would try to brush it and I would spend the next ½ hour crying. The brush would pull and be so painful. She’d eventually get the hair into long finger curls and by the next morning it was fuzz again. And the pain would start all over.
Now it was time to go to school. No time for that kind of ritual, so she’d take me to the beauty parlor where I would definitely leave without beauty. The lady would basically shave me head and leave me with what looked like a boys haircut. Until high school I just lived with the pain of how I appeared.
But then I started high school which was a mixed race school. I also had very dark skin, and after a summer in the sun, I was extremely suntan with black fuzz on top. I was now in charge of my hair, so I let it get a little longer. My problem was that it would not stay in any style for any period of time. And in those days there were no hair products. But in a mixed race school, I actually felt like I belonged. There were plenty of girls who had my same problem. And I was accepted because I didn’t really look out of place.
In the last half of my senior year we moved about 40 miles to the Northside of Chicago. New school, all white and me and my hair. But I was welcomed into the class, met Norma who is my dearest friend to this day, she introduced me to Bobbie, and we were 3 buddies. Norma had and still has the most beautiful perfectly thick, straight light brown hair. Oh how I envied her hair. We graduated, went on to the University of Illinois, Chicago Branch. But that was short lived. I met Al who accepted me, with that very dark skin and very difficult hair. He never saw me that way. In his eyes I was beautiful.
My obsession became the beauty salon, where I would have hair washed one day a week, and go back two more days a week for what was called comb-outs. Oh the money I spent on my hair. I even considered going into partnership with my hair stylist. We were now living in St Louis Missouri. I was told my hair would relax after childbirth. I gave birth to two my two daughters in St.Louis Relaxed hair was a myth. After our move back to Chicago my hair got totally unmanageable. Many a night I cancelled on our dinner dates and would retreat to bed, where I would hide from myself.
I was doing my ritual 3 day a week beauty salon, when Robert my hairstylist asked me the very best question. How can you as an artist, devote so much time on your appearance? Why don’t you just let it be really natural?
And so here’s the photo of my acceptance of my wonderful hair. That was the last salon visit. I trimmed my own hair when it needed it and do that to this day.
Another problem confronted and resolved. It only took 30 years. As part of my art life, I would model for other artists. Here’s a painting done by Chicago artist, Tom Dudas. Everyone loved painting my hair. And I loved their paintings.
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Art Academy Years
I registered for a 6 week class in drawing/painting at the local community center. The results of those six Wednesday night, 3 hour classes. One partly completed oil painting of tulip flowers. I spent 3 of those weeks trying to draw the tulips, before I touched the paints. Everyone else finished 3 paintings in the 6 weeks.
About The Art Academy
My friend took me to her school. There I was at The American Academy of Art in Chicago. I registered for a 3 year program, studying studio art with a concentration in oil painting and figure drawing.That’s a big change from Craft Master paint by number kits. My drawing instructor said drawing is all about seeing. So for 6 weeks we focused on drawing in charcoal from plaster casts, until we could really see what was there; the old master’s way of drawing in those European academies.
Then for six more weeks we painted from photographs. Here is my first painting after 12 weeks of classes.
Drawing and painting from life
Now we began the real work. That means from a breathing and often moving human being. Three times a week we spent 3 hours drawing from the nude live model. 1 minute poses, 3 minute poses, 5 minute poses and the long 20 minute pose at the end of the session. Three more hours of painting from another model, who was sometimes clothed. Oh yes and then there were the drapery sessions (drawings of cloth in charcoal to learn how to see clothing)
In year three I built the human form in clay, starting with the skeleton, adding the muscles and then the flesh on one side of the sculpture.At the end of those three years I now had the skill of being able to see, and to draw. They call that graduation. I call that just the beginning of my adventurous art career. Because what I now know is that once you have the skill, what you do with it becomes the Gift. To keep things somewhat in time it is now 1968.
Checkout my cuttingboards