When I learned about this project I was delighted by the idea of tracing some of my inspirations and influences and thanking those artists who have helped me to become the artist I am today.
There are different sorts of inspirations, aesthetic inspirations are one and I think much of our deeply-rooted aesthetics come from childhood. For me I see this in my love of flowers and gardens.
I grew up in a home surrounded by gardens and filled with plants. My family frequently visited the Chicago Botanic Garden (and any public garden wherever we traveled).
|the image of a citrus tree in a clay pot was lodged in my creative spirit from early on|
Painted flowers and plants in books were another big influence to me as a child. Some of my favorite illustrations to study were in Cicely M. Barker's Flower Fairies books. Her fairies are charming and the plants and flowers are detailed and botanically accurate. I also loved looking at my mom's copy of Sara Midda's In and Out of the Garden, a treasure of tiny painted gardens, plants, gardeners and words.
|childhood book inspiration -- Flower Fairies and Sara Midda|
I'm sure there are other books whose beautiful, detailed illustrations inspired and influenced me, but these are particularly clear in my mind.
When I was a child my family also regularly visited The Art Institute of Chicago (and other art museums wherever we went). I learned that art could be strange or beautiful or scary (the green faced woman in this painting always intrigued and frightened me) or sometimes a combination. I learned that paintings of flowers were hung on museum walls, that such paintings were art not just for botanical gardens, but for museums as well. It's probably not surprising that I was attracted to the art of Georgia O'Keefe. She remained one of my favorite artists as I grew up. The fact that she was a fiercely independent woman, painting what she wanted to paint, was just as influential to me as her art was.
|one of the places I insisted on stopping during our cross-country road trip in 2013 was the Georgia O'Keefe Museum|
Despite the fact that I loved art and art making when I was a child, I didn't consider becoming an artist. I had other passions that overshadowed art and I had no confidence in my art abilities. Art teachers in school squashed my confidence (and enthusiasm) for drawing and painting and I stopped doing those things for fun. I think a lot of people probably have similar experiences. If you're not encouraged to keep going, it's hard to do it on your own.
Fast forward to sometime in 2008. I had been discovering the world of blogs and blogging and was focusing more on nurturing my creativity. I was also feeling more of a pull toward my dreams of moving out of the city. I started doing a little research about lavender farming and discovered Apifera Farm and the art and blog of Katherine Dunn.* I was enchanted. And inspired. Here was a woman who was not only a farmer, but also a working artist. Some undefined, unnamed dream was beginning to awake in my unconscious.
|dreams of color and paint|
A bit later, I discovered another inspiring artist. I must have been searching for art books on Amazon because they sent me a recommendation of Kelly Rae Roberts' book Taking Flight. Something about the book caught my eye and when I delved further and discovered Kelly Rae's blog, her story and her philosophy, that undefined dream become a little bit clearer. What was most inspiring to me was that Kelly Rae had no art background or training and yet she had created an art career for herself. She was an ordinary person and she was making art. I hadn't even imagined that was possible before stumbling on her shining example of the power of believing in your dreams.
I didn't truly start learning to paint for almost two more years, but the spark had been lit. I began to seek out stories of other artists and I found so many inspirations on Etsy and elsewhere online. Once I started making an effort to find them, stories of artists -- everyday, ordinary people -- were everywhere. Magazines like Where Women Create and Artful Blogging provided example after example of inspiring artist stories and I devoured them.
|flower inspiration from my garden|
In the spring/summer of 2010 I took Kelly Rae's Flying Lessons e-course and started meeting some other artists online. In November of 2010 I joined Leah Piken Kolidas for the Art Everyday Month challenge. Within that encouraging atmosphere I began to lose some of my fear surrounding making art. A lot of my art for the month was done with yarn and fabric instead of paint, but I was slowly wading in to my art dreams.
The next encouraging art atmosphere I experienced was in the online painting class I took with Mati Rose McDonough and Lisa Congdon (both, also, late blooming artists, something I found very inspiring). I met more artists in that class and was encouraged and inspired by Mati and Lisa.
|a Mati Rose print and two Kelly Rae canvas prints provide inspiration on a wall in my studio|
Soon after that class Eva-Jane Lark and Kristin Dudish began hosting the weekly online art meetup Paint Party Friday. I jumped on the chance to participate and found so much encouragement and inspiration in that community. Instead of squashing my dreams and my early (not very good) attempts at painting, the artists I met online helped me to strive to continue painting and to continue developing my skills. If not for the support of that community it would have been so much harder for me to overcome self-doubt, fear and self-criticism. I am forever grateful.
Sometimes I get a little worried about the fact that my early painting attempts are still up here in my blog archives for anyone to see. What if someone judges my art on that? But then I realize that taking down those early posts, hiding away my early paintings, would be denying my story. I hope that my story, my journey, my stubborn determination to follow my dreams might someday inspire someone else who's just discovering a tiny spark of her own art dreams.
|currently on my painting table -- summer flowers in progress|
I know there are many more artists who have helped me to become an artist, both through the inspiration of their beautiful art and through the example of their passion and courage. I am forever grateful for all of that inspiration. Thank you to the artists whom I have mentioned here by name. Thank you to the artists whom I have not named for being brave enough to keep going, to follow your heart and listen to your dreams and share your stories -- your stories are an inspiration. Thank you to all the artists who make up the online communities in which I participated (some of you are still with me today! Thank you!). Your encouragement means so much. A special thanks, also, to Patience Brewster for starting this conversation.
Gratitude is so valuable. It's important that we take the time to thank those who inspire and encourage us. It's important we remember that none of us is in this alone.
I would love to hear your stories, too, whether you're an artist or not. Which artists inspire you or bring you joy? Who are you grateful for during this month of appreciating artists? Take a moment to leave a comment here, or if you're inspired to write your own gratitude post for Artist Appreciation Month, come back and leave a link to your post so we can continue the conversation!
*I wrote about Katherine Dunn and Kelly Rae Roberts in more detail in this blog post, so near the beginning of my artistic journey.