My first childhood memory of wanting to become an artist, is when I was around 5 years old, and was in my mother’s bedroom, staring at a painting of a Macaw parrot, painted with great detail and realism. My Mom then told me the story behind that painting; that her mother, who I had never met (she died when she was forty two) painted that painting at just thirteen years old. She took it off the wall, and showed me her signature, Winifred Tolly, 13 yrs old. I was amazed that as a young girl, my grandmother had painted something so beyond her years. I asked if she later became a famous artist. My mother then went on to explain, as much as she could to me, a child, how life had been difficult for my grandmother. She had much drama and upheaval in her short life, and that her art, sadly took a back seat and was forgotten about. This story made me very sad. It also made me very determined; that if I was ever to become an artist, to fight for it no matter what obstacles I might face, and succeed in the remembrance of my grandmother Winifred.
The second childhood inspiration of becoming an artist, happened when I was least expecting it. I was on a camping trip with my parents. We lived in Colorado and my Dad used to hook up the camper to the bronco and travel to high up destinations in the Rocky Mountains. After driving for hours, we finally arrived at the campsite; a higher elevation with sparse, large pines and large, white boulders everywhere. As my parents were setting up camp, I was anxious to be out of the car and set out with my sketchbook to explore. My mother warned me to stay close by and “don’t get lost!”. I was always afraid of that myself, and listened to my Mom; but after only taking a short walk, I looked back to where I thought I would see the trailer, but saw nothing but boulders and pines. I then thought, oh I made a mistake; it’s this way back. When I then saw again, nothing but boulders and pines, I became totally disoriented. Everything looked the same. I walked, in yet another direction into what looked like a clearing. It was a circle of large pines, and right in the middle was a baby pine. I then began to panic. I called out to my Mom and Dad, but heard no response. I remembered, that when one becomes lost, to just stay where you are. Since I had my sketch book with me, I decided to sit on one of the boulders, and sketch this little pine tree, that seemed so vulnerable, yet protected by the larger, wiser pines that surrounded it. Sketching this little tree, I felt a wave of peace and light wash over me. In that moment, a gentle voice spoke to me. It told me to sign the bottom right corner of the sketch. I had never done this before. When I added my signature, I heard the voice say again, “It is now complete.This is what you will do in life”. After this moment, that seemed to stand still in time, I came to, and I was drawn like a compass back with great relief to the campsite. I kept this experience from my parents at the time, because I didn’t want them to know I had been lost, but also because it felt like a secret treasure; this moment, that I wanted to hold close to my heart. It wasn’t until much later in life, when I became a painter, and was signing the bottom right corner of one of my first paintings, that this memory came back to me vividly. My heart swelled with gratitude with the memory and for the present.
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