Oil on canvas, 10x10, $100
It was the fall of 2006, and I was 50. My mother had died in July, and I was still a total wreck. Truly devastated. When I look back, I really don't know how I managed to go to work, go home, talk to people.
I was driving to work one day when I was struck by the idea that I should make a painting of our dogs to give to my husband for Christmas.
I'd never painted. As a girl, I'd drawn houses and horses. I'd doodled all my life. I'd made pottery, I'd done a lot of writing, but that was it. And so, if I'd have been my normal self, the self that easily said "I can't," I wouldn't have listened to the voice with that crazy idea. I'd have dismissed the notion, or maybe I'd have hired someone to do it.
Instead, I bought a canvas (it was 24x48 - huge! But we had six dogs, so I figured I needed a big canvas). I bought white paint, black paint, brown paint and blue paint, since one dog has blue eyes. I bought a big brush and a small brush, and I set out to make a painting.
From the moment I began, I loved it. And that first painting was fabulous. It was as if I'd been painting my whole life - I just hadn't picked up a brush.
I took a drawing class, and I took a beginning oil painting class. I joined a plein-air group. And I painted. I painted and painted and painted and painted. At every opportunity, I painted. I looked at my paintings, stared at them, tried to figure out what worked and what didn't. I pestered painters and artists and friends and family members to look at my paintings and critique them. When I painted with the Wallkill River School plein-air group, I asked endless questions - and those wonderful people answered them all.
In January of 2007, a heart attack killed my boss and dear friend Mike Levine, the editor of the Times Herald-Record. In April, the paper eliminated the job I'd thought I would have for the rest of my life.
These events, the death of my mother and Mike, and then losing my job, and all in the course of 10 months, this could have broken me.
I have come to believe that painting was given to me as a way to cope, and I have been grateful every day since.
Here's that first painting:
Next: The transition from painting as a hobby to painting as a profession.