Eventually – when my son was about three – I decided I wanted to paint again. I dropped out of the PhD program – which had me taking an hour subway ride home on weeknights so I got home at 11 on a school night… I had joined a loosely knit group of artists who knew someone who knew someone and so forth that met every month in someone’s studio. We called it The Art Club for lack of something better. It was formatted after what we had experienced in graduate school as a ‘Crit’ - short for Critique. The host often served snacks and drinks – and sometimes people brought beer to make sure there was enough to go around. They were lively affairs.
I also learned to fly fish and took up shot gun sports. Both of these pursuits taught me to look and see. I also learned to think about myself as three people, the person who is doing (shooting, fishing or painting) the observer and critic who actually just describes what is going on, and also as the coach who makes suggestions for improvement. (I realized later this had a lot to do with what I taught in high school – that we have essentially three parts of the brain and three ways to process – we can react, feel or think. )
Mostly, in real life, I was teaching math in New York City secondary school, trying to get by, dealing with an unfortunate marriage and raising my son. So I didn’t have a lot of time to paint. Still I managed to make some. A lot of the paintings were done on holidays – we went to a freind's house in upstate New York fairly often. So there are a lot of paintings of Gulf Summit - the name of the place this house was. It has a name – I suppose it was related to a train stop -but there was no town there. The nearest town was Deposit. The house was large and magical but had no running water or central heat. There were wood stoves and we got water out of a spring with buckets. Very bohemian and arty – and being young it seemed fun.
As a teacher I also had some time in the summer or on weekends – my son had some interesting child care situations. So there are many paintings of my yard. I began to garden in earnest and built three very small ponds with aquatic plants – some of them liberated from ponds upstate - goldfish from the pet store, and some mail order frogs I got as tadpoles. I very much loved my yard and garden and spending hours outside painting was wonderful.
I left NYC and got divorced. My son and I moved to Seattle in 1995 and stayed with my mom for the first year. The next school year I got a job in Snoqualmie teaching art and math in the high school. I stayed there for 22 years, mostly teaching art. My son grew up eventually getting married and going to graduate school in History of Science.
In the mean time I painted here and there – but not a lot. I did continue to shoot skeet – but only for the first few years - it became far too costly and time consuming. I did have the satisfaction of showing up at a small town gun club and beating all the local men at one time. I learned to fly fish in my own way in the Snoqualmie River – and how to find my way around taking my small Ford up logging roads and wondering where I could get access. Most summers I was on my own since my son went to visit with his father in Michigan.
But I spent most of my time teaching school and making a home for my son and spending time with my mom and old friends. This whole process of creating a home takes a lot of time and effort – I don’t know if we give ourselves enough credit for the work we do in order to keep ourselves sheltered, clothed and fed.
At school, I was surprised that my teaching assignment turned out to be mostly ceramics – I knew very little about it when I began teaching it – but over time I learned a lot and got to very much love working with clay. Since I could work that into my work schedule I began to focus on making forms to paint on. Still, a number of paintings continued to slowly get made.
Around the time Sean graduated from high school I got the idea to paint pictures of the river – since I’d been staring at it for quite some time. I did a number of big paintings in anticipation for a show – which turned out to be at the University Unitarian Church and later the Snoqualmie City Hall in 2010. I had hoped for more, but this was as much as I could work for. I didn’t have the strength of mind to shop my work around to commercial galleries. And I naively thought someone would notice the work and it might lead somewhere…
And so it went. I spent some time flying planes and some other years riding a bicycle and doing Nia and Zumba. And I kept eking out small paintings. And I kept fishing – mostly around my home.
I did become involved with the local art folks and did some paintings outside at local events – I was in paint-outs – and got a few prizes. I was on the side walk for art walks. I joined the local co-op gallery because some women wanted me to – but quickly realized that the six feet of space I had in the gallery/visitors center was not what I wanted – and recently I have pulled out of that. But I will say some of their activities did get me going again.
SO – now, I find six months after I bolted out of the school building I am trying to make some kind of sense of it all and figure out where to go next. Ahead is the task to catalogue what I’ve got, where I’ve been and decide where I want to go.
I might add, that looking back is weird. In some ways I am so disappointed that I haven't done more, but in other ways I suppose I've done a lot.
this section is devoted to what's on my mind - and reflections of the process of being an artist and blogging about it. - Ann Heideman