Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Art Appreciation

Art was always a very big part of my life. Not only was art something cherished and nurtured by my family growing up but it was so prevalent that I can heartily and simply say that art was an inseparable part of my life.  From early childhood to young adulthood I was greatly influenced by the beauty and power of all forms of art, it presently enhances my life and I imagine it always will.
My earliest memory of art was using Crayola crayons, the ones that came in a box with 64 colors and a built in sharpener. We had reams of clean newsprint, plain notebooks as well as stacks of coloring books available seemingly wherever we went, whether it be at home, a cousin or friends house as well as the doctor or dentist’s office. What a great memory to get to use a fresh new coloring book. At age four I was constantly pretending I was the secretary of my favorite TV character and I would be taking imaginary dictation and be writing perfect circles with pen on paper over and over again.  I didn’t think of it as art back then, I was just a little girl scribbling or doodling, but now I would consider it art.  I remember breaking my leg at age 5 and being brought art supplies by my relatives; something to keep me busy while I recovered and convalesced.  Every Easter in our baskets along with candy we received those flat long rectangular boxes with the circles of primary water colors and brand new paint brushes with little pads of watercolor paper.  I also remember dabbling with craypas, those drawing sticks of half crayon and half pastel and I loved the way their colors could meld with other colors and you can use the tips of your fingers to create shading.  I also remember smearing the red on my cheeks as pretend rouge.
We grew up in an inner city neighborhood and we’d play for hours in the streets, coloring the macadam with colored chalk drawings and of course many hopscotch boards.  When I was about 10 years old my father started to get interested in oil painting and he bought many flat small canvases. We would all sit together around the kitchen table, my two sisters, my mom and dad and myself and we’d paint on our canvases with oil paints. My dad used books and TV painting shows to direct his endeavors. My mother and I remember drawing on the boards with pencil then painting in the lines.  Another favorite kitchen table art event was the yearly egg dying where we would always try for the different and unusual shades by dipping, double dipping and over dipping a few eggs to see if we can make some new color discoveries, many of which resulted in your basic shade of ugly gray or muddied brown.
           There were always books around our apartment on how to paint with various mediums such as oils, watercolors, and acrylics. There were books on how to paint landscapes, still life, people and animals as well as books of famous painters like Van Gogh, Renoir and Picasso.  There were books with in depth directions on how to draw anything.  I remembered loving to draw horses because I was
fascinated by how easy it was to put together the certain sized circles, ovals and connecting lines in just the right places to get the proper proportion so the the horse would look just right.
I was intrigued by the book on how to mix colors and the beautiful photos of color wheels and pages and pages of color swatches made of brushstrokes.  I was also curious how they came up with some of the names of colors such as sepia, burnt umber and raw sienna.
          Besides the art supplies and all the painting and coloring we did at home, there was always some craft project going on whether it was clay sculpting or paper Mache or little sewing projects.  School also incorporated many art adventures.  In 4th or 5th grade I remember being put in charge of decorating the bulletin boards with colored construction paper, cutout shapes and letters depicting the present history lesson, current season or approaching holiday.  Even the many books available at school and home I have fond memories of how beautifully illustrated they were.  We had a lovely children’s bible that I would spend hours just looking at the pictures and could tell the whole story without even reading it.  I can’t forget to mention the class trips to museums to see famous paintings and sculptures as well as the artsy crafts we did in girl scouts, such as pasta art, shadow box book reports and activity scenes as well as popsicle stick people and houses.
          Besides all of these lovely art experiences I had as a child I distinctly remember some of the artwork that graced the walls of my home and the homes of some of my relatives.  My grandparent’s apartment had a lot of religious artwork, paintings of baby Jesus and the Virgin Mary.  I also seem to remember a print hanging up of Leonardo Davinci’s The Last Supper.  I can still conjure the emotional qualities portrayed by this art.  I vividly remember gazing at the many ornate statues and stained glass windows in the Catholic churches I attended as a child and can still touch into and feel the deep impressions all of this had on me.  I’ve always loved the art on Christmas cards and remembered being surrounded by Norman Rockwell paintings on the Saturday Evening Post Magazines.  One painting that stands out from my parent’s house was A Young Girl Reading by Jean Honore-Fragonard.  I absolutely loved that woman in the ruffled yellow dress reading her book; I wanted to be her somehow.
          I am thankful for the myriad ways that I was exposed to art as a child.  I have one sister who went to art school and presently creates brilliant works of art and another sister who collects and treasures all kinds of art and fills her home with it.  My father’s paintings adorn my mother’s walls as well as my own home and I myself love to create art in various forms and mediums.  I am appreciating the opportunity to have gathered and documented my thoughts on this topic and I find myself most grateful for the way that art has richly informed, educated and nourished me as a child and as a human being.