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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