My Journey in the Visual Arts: Part 10 of 10

This is a series of short posts that will piece together how I ended up in the visual arts. I don’t recall an Ah-Ha situation where I knew from a particular moment that I wanted to be an artist. It just sort of crept up on me. It has now been over 35 years since I pursued art as, at first, a serious avocation then a profession. Along the way I have been very fortunate having experienced many facets of the visual art world. During that time I have also made attempts to leave that world only to be pulled back in somehow. You can read the first post in this series here.

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This is where I will end this series. After this point, I had made the decision to transfer from art as a past time to art as a way of life. My purpose for writing this was to see if there was any logic for me ending up in this field and I can see that my desire to produce art came early and persisted. My career has been quite varied in not only the type of art I have produced but the various positions I have held in the arts. There have also been many setbacks and sabbaticals but I always seem to return.

What I will leave off with is a reference back to the comment my friend said about wanting to see a bit of red in my early collages. Fairly quickly I got involved in the the broader category of Works on Paper which includes papermaking, printmaking, book arts, etc. So I will share a few images below of some other work from that early period of my art making. As an aside, but a good example of how your work catches up with you years later, please see this post regarding the last piece shown below (the link is also underneath that image).

Thank you for coming on this journey with me!

Community Spirit, Mixed media, circa early 1990s
Mama and Bebes, Mixed media, circa early 1990s
Aunt Di’s Laundry, Mixed media, circa early 1990s
If We Lived in The Garden, Mixed media, circa early 1990s
Village, Mixed media, circa early 1990s
By Night, Mixed media, 1993,

Please see this post regarding the piece above

My Journey in the Visual Arts: Part 9 of 10

This is a series of short posts that will piece together how I ended up in the visual arts. I don’t recall an Ah-Ha situation where I knew from a particular moment that I wanted to be an artist. It just sort of crept up on me. It has now been over 35 years since I pursued art as, at first, a serious avocation then a profession. Along the way I have been very fortunate having experienced many facets of the visual art world. During that time I have also made attempts to leave that world only to be pulled back in somehow. You can read the first post in this series here.

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I continued to take studio classes in college and my drawing instructor, Michelle, was very liberal with her definition of the word “drawing”, so I decided to start making drawings from cut paper. The first piece I did was a busy cityscape with odd shaped buildings and cars and the palette was limited to white, black, a gray and a blue/gray. I remember she liked the drawing and I also remember a friend of mine saying that she would find it more pleasing if there was a dot of red somewhere. That sort of stuck in my mind and was useful at a later point, but for now, I was limiting my palette.

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I had a goal to get into the Rittenhouse Square show. This was the show that I met the pen and ink artist at a few years before. One of the artists who had been in the show for many years told me to make sure the body of work I presented to the jury was consistent. I needed at least 10 pieces. I decided I would do a series of cut paper collages and the imagery would be things that were completely from my imagination. The paper I used was Canson Mi-Teintes paper. My daughter at this time was around three and I was still in school. I worked all hours of the night and whatever time I could steel during the day. Below is some of my work from that time as well as my display from my first year in the show, which was 1989.

Neon Nights, Cut paper collage
Ten Cats, Cut paper collage
Handyman Special, Cut paper collage
Morning Edition, Cut paper collage
Me at Rittenhouse show, 1989

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My Journey in the Visual Arts: Part 8 of 10

This is a series of short posts that will piece together how I ended up in the visual arts. I don’t recall an Ah-Ha situation where I knew from a particular moment that I wanted to be an artist. It just sort of crept up on me. It has now been over 35 years since I pursued art as, at first, a serious avocation then a profession. Along the way I have been very fortunate having experienced many facets of the visual art world. During that time I have also made attempts to leave that world only to be pulled back in somehow. You can read the first post in this series here.

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Things get a bit fuzzy and start to overlap around this time in my mind. I know I was very involved with that cultural organization in the Northeast part of the city and was in charge of organizing an outdoor art show in the spring of, I believe, 1987. I took the opportunity of collecting artist’s business cards whenever I visited another outdoor show. The show was a success as far as events go – we had a lovely park setting on the grounds of a local hospital, a wind ensemble, and lots of people but not necessarily lots of buyers. I actually did sell my first piece at this show, a pen and ink drawing of a gazebo. Once again, I felt a bit guilty because the image was part my own and part inspiration from ads I saw for gazebos. I told this information to the woman who bought it and she said that did not bother her at all, she just liked the artwork.

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It was also around this time that I started to enter small juried shows. The first one on the grounds of Cliveden, a historic site in Germantown, Philadelphia. This was an in person jury so I had to bring several pieces for the jurors to look at. I remember one juror that sort of intimidated me but then I over heard him saying he liked my work, which was at this time, mainly charcoal and hard pastel drawings, and a few pen and inks most likely. The funniest thing about this “intimidating juror” was that many years later, we served on a board together and I was always having to wake him up because he would nod off at the meetings!

Drawing from a photograph of my sister when she was a child of about 8
Drawing from my sketch book around 1988

The other juried exhibition was an indoor show through the an arts group in Lansdown, PA which was right outside the city. I entered a charcoal drawing of one of my husbands dress shirts that was hanging on a closet door. It really was a striking drawing and I remember him saying he didn’t know how I would ever do anything better than that drawing (which was meant as a compliment). I agreed it was the best thing I did at that point but I also said that if I never do anything better I am in big trouble!!

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There was also a community arts group forming in the neighborhood of Frankford, which is where I was originally from. I attended a few meetings and eventually got very involved with them with some public art projects as well as teaching.

A woman from the Frankford based group worked in color pencils and I wanted to learn more about them. I saw that a workshop was being taught in New York over a weekend by a very accomplished artist in this medium by the name of Bet Borgeson. We decided to go up so I could attend the workshop. It seemed, for me at the time, a great adventure. While I was in the class, my husband rode around the city on subways and such with our daughter and the diaper bag visiting stores and other sites. Everyone seemed to have a good time.

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My Journey in the Visual Arts: Part 7 of 10

This is a series of short posts that will piece together how I ended up in the visual arts. I don’t recall an Ah-Ha situation where I knew from a particular moment that I wanted to be an artist. It just sort of crept up on me. It has now been over 35 years since I pursued art as, at first, a serious avocation then a profession. Along the way I have been very fortunate having experienced many facets of the visual art world. During that time I have also made attempts to leave that world only to be pulled back in somehow. You can read the first post in this series here.

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Our daughter was born very early in 1986 and we had bought a home back in the city in the summer of 1985. Life for me was very quiet and lonely at this time. I drew when my daughter napped and since I was still more interested in realism at this time I stuck to very simple objects such as one piece of fruit. I was particularly found of apples and peaches and drew them using hard pastels or color pencil.

The one piece I remember very well actually was a non-representational collage and it completely absorbed me. I remember going to the art supply store and selecting very specific tempera paint colors. At night, I sat at our dining room table making this piece and my husband sat across from me painting miniature historic figurines. I painted several sheets small, fairly thick watercolor paper a variety of pastel colors: pink, blue, and yellow. After I painted the paper, I painstakingly tore them into long strips and then spent a great amount of time collaging them, looking carefully at the tear pattern of each strip of paper and deciding if it was the best choice to go with the previous strip’s tear pattern. It took me a long time to complete this piece and it was very small. After it was finished, I bought a precut blue mat (overall size 10″ x 8″) that had a white liner mat, which I signed. I called the piece Post Partum. Over the years I framed it different ways but I think my favorite presentation was the original one in the inexpensive humble precut mat and ready made silver chrome frame. I still have the piece (see below)

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As our baby was getting to be closer to a year old, I felt I needed more outside stimulation. A group was forming through the Department of Recreation to attempt to bring more cultural programming to Northeast Philadelphia. Most events took place downtown. This group was heavily interested in the performing arts but there was room for all art related interests. My involvement was trying to book speakers on various topics at the local regional library branch as well as try to figure out a way to have small art exhibitions. It was a welcome activity for me and I enjoyed the people I met. There was a small outdoor art exhibition held in our part of the city that was somehow related to the Recreation Department that I participated in but it was not something directly related to this group. I was continuing to work with charcoal and hard pastel and that is probably what I exhibited.

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The other big change I made was I went back to finish college. Finally my stars and the stars of the academic world aligned and I was able to major in Humanities at a small local college. The only requirement was that I had to decide a main area of focus but could take courses in many other subjects. My main focus was, of course, art. Below is a photo of my daughter and I that was published in the college’s newsletter. I remember what I was pointing at, it was a watercolor of a pile of sneakers made by one of the nuns who was a professor in the Humanities department.

Caption of photo reads: The continuing education program at Holy Family College is designed to meet the needs of non-traditional students, such as mothers of young children, whose primary responsibility is other than that of student.

My Journey in the Visual Arts: Part 6 of 10

This is a series of short posts that will piece together how I ended up in the visual arts. I don’t recall an Ah-Ha situation where I knew from a particular moment that I wanted to be an artist. It just sort of crept up on me. It has now been over 35 years since I pursued art as, at first, a serious avocation then a profession. Along the way I have been very fortunate having experienced many facets of the visual art world. During that time I have also made attempts to leave that world only to be pulled back in somehow. You can read the first post in this series here.

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We moved to New Jersey and I ended up going to the local community college for (finally) Dietary. I will just add here that I did spend several years in the Dietary field but decided that it was not for me. Nobody listens to advice about their diet no matter how sick they are, and advancing in the field would require advanced degrees heavy in science. However, this program did help me very much because from it I learned that I liked to teach and interact with the public. It also helped me to land a very good job years later with the Salvation Army where they not only needed a recreation director but someone who could run the community lunch program in accordance with specified dietary standards.

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I was pretty involved in my school program so I cannot say I devoted a lot of time to making art; however, I did purchase a new slant top drafting table for $35 which at the time seemed like a fortune to me! I framed up some of my pen and ink drawings and did make some drawings in color pencil and watercolors. I drew cartoons of/for my friends and imaginary scenes. My sister (number 3) actually has two of the drawing/watercolors I made around that time. The one of the clock has some glare on it from the photo she took but the large beam of light from the window in the painting is part of the painting. The other drawing is called Cafe Closed but that made my sister sad so she changed the name of the drawing to Gone Bowling.

My parents were always very supportive of my art. My mom loved gazebos so I drew a pen and ink gazebo for her. My dad surprised me one day with some canvas covered panels and a brush holder/water well, which I still use (see photo below). I remember after trying the panels that I was not crazy about the feel of canvas so that was useful to learn at such an early point.

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An acquaintance of ours suggested I submit some of my line drawings to the New Yorker. I figured I had nothing to lose so I selected a few to submit. My husband and I went to New York pretty regularly so I thought it best to hand deliver them. It was a pretty ambitious move on my part because I am sure whatever I submitted was probably pretty bad. However, I remember the receptionist being very cordial and not feeling like an idiot for having done it.

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Actually, I can remember one piece of significance from this time frame. One day we were sitting in Washington Square (in Philadelphia) on a bench and I was watching the pigeons on the sidewalk. I was really intrigued by their feet – the shapes and the different color pinks. I painted a small watercolor of the pigeons’ feet, not the birds themselves, just their feet. My husband liked it. I guess it was my first attempt at something a bit on the abstract side. The reason the painting was significant has nothing to do with the picture itself but what it foretold. Many years later, I had a solo exhibition called Dirty Birds which featured several depictions of pigeons. The show was favorably reviewed by Victoria Donohoe of the Philadelphia Inquirer. But that is many years away from this point in time.

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My Journey in the Visual Arts: Part 5 of 10

This is a series of short posts that will piece together how I ended up in the visual arts. I don’t recall an Ah-Ha situation where I knew from a particular moment that I wanted to be an artist. It just sort of crept up on me. It has now been over 35 years since I pursued art as, at first, a serious avocation then a profession. Along the way I have been very fortunate having experienced many facets of the visual art world. During that time I have also made attempts to leave that world only to be pulled back in somehow. You can read the first post in this series here.

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I got married very young and my husband was (and still is) very big on hobbies so I delved deeper into art. I was intrigued by pen and ink drawings and he bought me a pen holder and nibs. I also had this book called Rendering in Pen and Ink that I would read and do exercises from. My general interest in the Humanities also grew. We were at 30th Street Station waiting for a train to New York for our honeymoon and spotted a bookstore with used books where he bought me a old textbook simply called The Humanities. I still have my pen nibs and that book so here is a photo of them.

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There was an outdoor art show called the Rittenhouse Square Fine Art Annual which took place every June. There was an artist there who drew in pen and ink. I believe her name was Karyl but I cannot remember her last name. Anyway, I took her card and called her and asked if I could bring some of my pen drawings to show her. She was very kind and invited me to her home and looked at my work and was very encouraging. She suggested I try a class at one of the local art schools. One thing about this encounter is sort of amusing to me now. About a dozen years later I found myself not only in the Rittenhouse show but serving on the board and chairing the show for a few years. Below is a pen and ink drawing I did around this time (1979). Thanks to sister number 2 for this!

I worked during the day but signed up for two night classes at Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts). One was a life class and another was a lettering class. I liked the life class more than the lettering class and often asked a friend of ours to pose for me. There was a local drafting school I looked into as well but realized that drafting was far too technical for me.

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My Journey in the Visual Arts: Part 4 of 10

This is a series of short posts that will piece together how I ended up in the visual arts. I don’t recall an Ah-Ha situation where I knew from a particular moment that I wanted to be an artist. It just sort of crept up on me. It has now been over 35 years since I pursued art as, at first, a serious avocation then a profession. Along the way I have been very fortunate having experienced many facets of the visual art world. During that time I have also made attempts to leave that world only to be pulled back in somehow. You can read the first post in this series here.articular moment that I wanted to be an artist. It just sort of crept up on me. It has now been over 35 years since I pursued art as, at first, a serious avocation then a profession. Along the way I have been very fortunate having experienced many facets of the visual art world. During that time I have also made attempts to leave that world only to be pulled back in somehow. You can read the first post in this series here.

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When I went to college I choose a school with a very good dietary program but decided not to declare a major right away since I wasn’t really sure. This greatly distressed the school administration so I had to take tests to see where my career interests were. The nun who was my academic advisor read me the results and said I should go into the Arts. I immediately dismissed the idea because I really had no concept of what that meant. My parents really could not assist because all they knew was that it was good to go to college and they really did not care what I went for as long as I attended and graduated from a college. I figured I could just keep taking Liberal Arts classes until I figured things out because I had to take those courses anyway, but that didn’t seem like something the school was crazy about. So I decided to leave school to mull things over, which did not make my parents happy. So I enrolled in another school that had a good dietary program but left there too after a semester of taking more liberal arts classes.

Oddly in that year of school, I never took a visual arts class but I did do art on my own. When I lived at school, I was a little homesick so I remember becoming very engaged in a collage I made on a poster board (to give an idea of the size) of Philadelphia, using old copies of Philadelphia Magazine as material. When I no longer lived at school, I sat at our kitchen table to paint. One particular painting was a view of a street lined with stores. It didn’t really exist, it was something I made up but I think I was challenging myself to show perspective as the stores were on a steep angle and they got smaller as they receded on the picture plane. I recall the name I put on one of the stores “Kathy’s Lingerie”. I was using poster paints so the colors were very chalky, flat and bright and there was a cartoony-folk aspect to it that I think still shows up in my work today. But all in all, it was a terrible painting. My mother hung it up anyway, but not on the refrigerator since I was about 18 or 19 years old at the time.

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My oldest sister (the one from the museum opening), was taking painting classes from an elderly man at a community center. His emphasis was on portraiture and he was a very good portrait painter. I went to a class two or three times but his method really didn’t interest me much because I was not interested in portraits. My sister enjoyed the classes and seemed to get a lot out of them.

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My Journey in the Visual Arts: Part 3 of 10

This is a series of short posts that will piece together how I ended up in the visual arts. I don’t recall an Ah-Ha situation where I knew from a particular moment that I wanted to be an artist. It just sort of crept up on me. It has now been over 35 years since I pursued art as, at first, a serious avocation then a profession. Along the way I have been very fortunate having experienced many facets of the visual art world. During that time I have also made attempts to leave that world only to be pulled back in somehow. You can read the first post in this series here.

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In high school I became interested in the humanities, particularly classic literature, poetry and, to a lesser degree, the theater. It is probably worth saying that as a child I dabbled in the performing arts by participating in school and community plays, glee club and such. But it didn’t stick with me. I took art in high school but did not like the teacher who seemed sort of tipsy a lot of the time so I dropped the class.

My oldest sister was a newspaper reporter and received press passes to cover a large event at the Philadelphia Museum of Art; I believe it was the opening or maybe reopening of the American Wing. It was a very big deal and I was in awe of the sheer spectacular-ness of the event which seemed very lavish to me as a 15 or 16 year old. I can’t say I remember any of the art because it was only the grandeur that I remembered.

As a teenager, I remember sitting in my room drawing with great absorption and concentration. Two drawings stand out in my mind: one was a copy of the front of a David Bowie album I had. I can’t remember the name of it but his face was sort of tilted down and you could see a lightening bolt or something like that painted on his face. I did the drawing in color pencils. The other drawing was of a philodendron plant I had in my room with trailing lemony green leaves. It may have been the first thing I drew from life.

Sorry – still no images but later posts will have plenty!

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My Journey in the Visual Arts: Part 2 of 10

This is a series of short posts that will piece together how I ended up in the visual arts. I don’t recall an Ah-Ha situation where I knew from a particular moment that I wanted to be an artist. It just sort of crept up on me. It has now been over 35 years since I pursued art as, at first, a serious avocation then a profession. Along the way I have been very fortunate having experienced many facets of the visual art world. During that time I have also made attempts to leave that world only to be pulled back in somehow. You can read the first post in this series here.

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When we moved from the city I went to a middle school that had an actual art room. Only two projects stand out in my mind from that art class – a drawing and a clay project. Though I am not entirely sure, I am thinking that the drawing project had something to do with copying an ad from a magazine. What makes me think this is because of what I choose as well as another student’s drawing that made an impression on me, which is where I will start. I remembered a beautifully drawn picture, in pencil, of two faces that I believe were a mother and child. There was an elegance and maturity about the manner in which it was drawn but at the time, I only could conjure up the idea that the drawing was really lovely and very realistic. So I wanted my drawing to also be very realistic. I choose an image of a long elegant hand, it was probably an ad for hand cream or maybe nail polish, who knows! Anyway, I drew the long elegant hand, in pencil, complete with a shadow showing the finger tips resting on a surface. When I got the drawing back it was graded a ’10’ which was like an A+. (I am finding it heard to believe that I actually remembered that grading system). Anyway, I was very happy and when I was allowed to take the drawing home I taped it to my mirror. At some later point, I decided the drawing needed color so I polished the nails. I am now wondering if I used real nail polish to do that??

The other project was really only memorable for other reasons. We had to make a clay pinch pot and I remember I made this tiny pot with a crooked lid that I painted this sort of muddy rose color and put a blue stripe on it. It was pretty terrible. Now the reason I remember the project because there was a boy that I had a giant crush on that was in the class either before or after mine and I decided I would find his clay project and write a message on the bottom, which I did. It said “Hi Danny From Diane”. Not exactly poetry but there wasn’t much space!

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My Journey in the Visual Arts: Part 1 of 10

This is a series of short posts that will piece together how I ended up in the visual arts. I don’t recall an Ah-Ha situation where I knew from a particular moment that I wanted to be an artist. It just sort of crept up on me. It has now been over 35 years since I pursued art as, at first, a serious avocation then a profession. Along the way I have been very fortunate having experienced many facets of the visual art world. During that time I have also made attempts to leave that world only to be pulled back in somehow. So I will start with my earliest memory and go from there. I will not have much in the way of images for these first few posts.

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My first memory of a visual art experience was when I was about seven or eight years old at day camp. Somebody drew a picture of a boat by a large sunset and I thought it was one of the greatest pictures I ever saw. At some point after that, my family was on vacation in Florida and the hotel where we were staying had an art activity/contest so I drew the picture of the boat with the sunset as best as I could remember it. For my efforts, I was awarded “3rd prize” which consisted of a plastic trophy about 8 inches tall with the name of the hotel on it. I immediately felt like a fraud! Even though it was my drawing, I knew the original idea was not my own. I was too young to understand feelings like inspiration and definitely never heard the saying “Good artists copy, great artists steal”. Well, I am by no means a great artist, but I feel I can at least fall into the ‘good’ category at this point so my guilt has since subsided.

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The next drawings I can remember were cartoon characters that I liked: Fred Flintstone, Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Woodstock. The Fred Flintstone one was a challenge. I was copying the front of a Flintstones coloring book and got Fred down fine but was really struggling with the prehistoric bird with its wings wide open that Fred was using as an umbrella.

In grade school, we very occasionally had art. The teacher, Miss Shore, came to our class. I guess it was the same idea as what is now called Art on a Cart. I don’t really remember what types of lessons Miss Shore taught but I do remember that I referred to her with great reverence as a “Real Artist”.

The years this took place were in the mid 1960s and charm bracelets were wildly popular. The idea of charm bracelets was to fill it with charms that were symbolic with things about your personality. Somebody in my family gave me a paint palette to put on my charm bracelet. I must have spent much more time engaged in art that I can recall for someone to notice and give me that charm. Oddly, I do have a photo of that charm bracelet (below). That’s all for now – to be continued.

charm bracelet with paint palette charm