The long story about my journey back to art



My earliest drawings can be found in my old story books, where I made much needed adjustments to the original illustrations in order to add meaning and liveliness ;-), at the age of 3 (1976).

I still remember what I thought when I worked on this piece. I was intrigued with the friendly looking fish witch and wanted to be involved in whatever she was making. So I drew myself in there and pretended that I just came back from wherever fish witch assistants go to get ingredients. I loved how we could breathe and cook under water.

Growing up in the Netherlands, I remember many school field trips to art musea, visiting exhibitions with my parents and being inspired by the works of the old Dutch and other European masters and modern artists. I drew and painted a lot, using pencils and ink and I knew early on that I was going to be a painter and maybe also become a sculptor.

In elementary school, kids in my class would ask me to make a drawing in their agendas and on their notebooks and I often made illustrations for the school newspaper. And then, all the kids in my class were tested to see where our talents lie and through our parents we’d be informed of a recommended career choice. I don’t remember anything about tests being done but my test results stated that I should continue drawing and painting as that was my strongest developed talent and I would most likely be very successful as an artist. 

Of course such results don’t guarantee anything but I felt it was nice to know. But over the years, this test result began to bother me. I still drew a lot and started using water colors and gouache and when I graduated from high school, it would have been a logical next step to enroll at the art academy, except that, because of the test result, and maybe because I wanted to rebel, I wanted to experience more in life before committing to any career and had developed a desire to learn many other things that didn’t come naturally to me. I wanted to explore other talents and skills.

This desire took me on a path through various jobs in textile printing, wood working, office jobs in media and fashion and many, many other fields. In my spare time I liked to stay creative and when I was 22 years old, I joined a local senior painter’s club. They provided me with my first oil painting kit and at this club I did my first oil painting: a copy of a pastoral by an unknown Belgian artist.
It was a really fun, very skilled and supportive group and I learned a lot from its members. One person in particular who was the best painter of the group and a Second World War member of the resistance, took me under his wings. I’m forever grateful for his guidance, the trips we took to musea and the war stories he shared. I’m still very interested in World War II stories as it has impacted my family in so many ways.

Next to my weekly visits to the club I took graphic design classes in the evenings and played electric guitar in rock bands for 10 years. I also dabbled in poetry and short stories for a few years.

I really enjoyed all the different challenges I encountered through all my jobs and although I still painted every once in a while and sometimes even sold a painting, I eventually forgot all about a career in art.

When I met my husband and moved to Pennsylvania in 2008, I studied herbs(to deal with health issues that nobody seemed to be able to help me with), became a foraging instructor and columnist for the Williamsport Sun Gazette when I hit a kind of midlife crisis at the age of 38.

All these different careers had been fun but not entirely fulfilling. I learned a lot but for what? What was I going to do for the rest of my life? And then I caught myself thinking: Was it too late to become an artist? Had I completely missed the window on developing my artistic skills?

It was my husband who motivated me to give art a real chance as this, in his opinion, was the most obvious thing I should be doing. I knew I should go for it and even though enrolling at an art academy was not an option because of where we live, through my various careers I’d learned how to study on my own and had developed a strong work ethic. My husband advised me to see art as a job and start my art work days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 9-5 to see how I liked it. It didn’t fall on deaf ears. On a Monday in January 2012, I began painted in my little office studio at home and read books about painting in the evenings.

Thursday came and I just continued. I’ve since dedicated all of my time to painting, continuously educating myself with the help of books, forums, videos and workshops to keep improving my skills. It feels like something I should have been doing all along but I’m also grateful for all the experiences I’ve gained and often find myself using tools and approaches I’ve learned from all the different careers.  In August 2012 I co-founded the Northern Tier Plein Air group and the Open Studio in Wellsboro, a group that’s very much like the group I joined when I was 22 but with a wide range of levels, disciplines and ages. I’ve moved out of my little office and taken over half of our living room. I’m back on track.

In a few weeks I’ll have my very first exhibition with hors d’oeuvres, wine, live music by Anne and Ciro Lopinto and sweepstakes! Don’t miss out on the chance to win a gift certificate and sign up for my newsletter:

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