There are generally two questions people ask after discovering my mother is an artist. One, what was it like being raised by an artist, and two, did I inherit any of those artist talents?
To the first question, being the child of an artist is always an adventure. To the second question, I can barely draw stick people, so let’s get back to the adventure. Mom’s art studio was always her sacred space. When we moved to San Juan Island, my parents built the studio before the house. Granted there was logic to what seemed like madness to a 6-year-old.
“This is how we make money now,” my parents said as they attempted to explain why we were living in a trailer months after the studio was completed. The trailer provided a roof over our heads, we weren’t homeless, and the studio was their job. I vaguely understood, but I suspected something more was going on, that the studio was built first not only because of financial reasons but because my mother could not stop creating for a single moment. Her art has always been her passion, the reason she gets up in the morning. Most hours of most days mom can be found in the studio, currently doing pastels, back then it was serigraphs, a fine art term for silk screen. My sister and I could rattle that definition off by the time we were 7.
Adult: What does your mother do?
Child: She’s an artist.
Adult: Really? What kind of art does she make?
Adult: What’s a serigraph?
Child: A serigraph is a fine art term for silk screen.
Even when she isn’t in the studio, Mom is either sketching or simply mulling over new art designs.
She instilled in both my sister and me the notion that if you want something badly enough, you can make the dream happen. It takes countless hours of practice and endless hard work, but if one puts their mind, body, and soul into it, that work will eventually pay off.
Mom also instilled a sense of open-mindedness. There was lots of travel involved, going to art shows all over the west coast, opening us to new places and new people. There was the old man who made wooden boxes, the jeweler who wore huge bangles that reminded me of a gypsy, the couple that sewed doll clothes prettier than anything you could buy at a store. Then there were the customers, always thrilled to meet the artist and swore they themselves didn’t have a creative bone in their body, yet by their fashion sense I never entire believed them. The parental take away here, was not necessarily “don’t talk to strangers,” though believe me they kept us safe, but that people have different perspectives on life. Those differences aren’t scary, in fact, they can occasionally be refreshing. Fellow artists became like extended family, and I recognized the drive behind their work. As writing got under my skin, I slowly began to understand why the studio was built before the house. Isaac Asimov once said, “I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.”
Watching my mom work, I understood that for mom, art was the same way.
How amazing she was able to make a living, raise a family even while satisfying this strange and creative impulse.