Saturday, February 7, 2009

THOUGHTS ABOUT ARTISTS


The covers of my latest two books, NOTHING FOR FREE, and MARTIN FINDS HIS TOTEM, as well as those of my Young Adult book about the Spanish settlement of New Iberia, FLOOD ON THE RIO TECHE, were derived from paintings by my brother Paul who lives in a state our family calls Diddy Wah Diddy, better known as California to readers. The covers were then designed and tweaked by my grandson Martin who received a degree in Landscape Architecture from the LSU School of Design a few years ago.

Many decades ago, my mother painted pastels of infants and woodland creatures, and made cartoon-like drawings to accompany clippings of activities she enjoyed for the scrapbooks she kept while attending Mississippi Woman’s College and Mississippi State College for Women. My father, who honed his skills as a civil engineer with Roosevelt’s CCC and WPA, was an expert draftsman and designer. And then there’s Kimberly, my granddaughter, now 17, who has swept away the Grand Prize twice in the Youth Division at the Art Show in Antelope Valley, California during the last three years.

I respect the artistic talents of these family members, and, at times, I have downright envied their ability to create and recreate images of people, landscapes, still-lifes… even their skill to print words neatly, in contrast to my inscrutable scrawl! The work of family members ranges from precisely-drawn still-lifes to brilliant abstracts rendered by Brother Paul for the covers of my poetry chapbooks. I am charmed and happy to showcase their work, but I often lament “Why didn’t I inherit the art gene?”

When I search for documentaries to view during my leisure time, I inevitably look for biographies of Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, Walter Anderson, Klee…the list is as endless as my appreciation for their work and my desire to draw, paint, sketch, doodle. Picasso said that “You have to wake people up, to revolutionize their way of identifying things. You have to create images they won’t accept,” but I think my stick figures and stiff, pyramid-like representations of mountains would never force anyone to accept my “identification of things.”

The artistic gene in my family could have been transferred to my brother, via my father, the meticulous draftsman about whom I wrote in an unpublished novel entitled GOING TO DIDDY WAH DIDDY: “He represented everything powerful and competent. He could sketch out a bridge, an office building, or a city drainage system in crisp black lines on vellum paper in a matter of hours. The lines came from his giant male brain that not only envisioned and drew but helped construct huge buildings on empty landscapes…” Or perhaps the art gene was passed down by my mother about whom I wrote in THEIR ADVENTUROUS WILL, PROFILES OF MEMORABLE LOUISIANA: “She was fantasy itself; she saw sprites dancing in open fires, drew pictures of gnomes painting the woodlands and created pastels of quaint cliff dwellings where other-world spirits lived…”

No, I can’t draw or paint, but I try to showcase the wonderful work of my family, as you will notice in the reproduction of granddaughter Kimberly’s prize-winning pen and ink still life above, and I hope you’ll enjoy and celebrate the artistic endeavors of my blessed relatives who “got the gene.”
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