Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The daughter of an artist.

I can't draw.  Or paint. Or do anything creative.  It's not me.  Not at all.  And as much as my Uncle Leon begged me to take his art class, I wasn't naive enough to think I could.  It's just not in my nature.  I am not a perfectionist in the slightest.  I don't care about details.  (A nice way to say, I am very sloppy.)  I'll start with stating how I am not an artist because that is the question I am probably most often asked when someone hears my dad is an artist, "Oh are you an artist too?"

My experience growing up with an artist dad was probably different than most kids relationships with their dads. Until I was 6 my dad was a full time artist which meant he stayed home and painted all day every day.  After I was 6 he got a job teaching at Dixie College and so he taught school 3 days a week and painted 3 days a week.  My entire life my dad worked 6 days a week.  Essentially he worked 2 full time jobs.  I am so proud of that fact.  I am proud of how hard my dad worked.  And as he reminds me time and time and time again, "Painting is hard work."  But I am so proud of my dad and how hard he has worked because I know it is dedication more than any natural talent that has gotten him to where he is today. A quote from Michelangelo I think is so true, "If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful after all."   But this idea of vacation or free time was a foreign concept in my childhood because my dad could always be painting.  And he did.

That being said, he never missed anything.  That is another concept that was foreign to us, "Dad has to work" was never a statement made.  Because the school year of colleges are relatively short, I don't remember not having my dad around for everything.  He could attend every sporting event, we could go to every reunion, we were never limited by a tight work schedule.  It was nice.

But I thought  I would go through the process of a painting.  First my dad has to come up with an idea for a painting.  During the majority of my childhood my dad was "commissioned" to do paintings.  That means someone would ask my dad to paint a specific painting and he painted it.  As an artist, this is when you have arrived.  You know you are going to get paid.  You always have work.  The hard part is, making the commissioner happy is not always an easy job.  Before my dad got commissioned to paint paintings, he would paint a painting and send it to an art gallery.  The awesome part about that job was if a person liked the painting they bought it.  So the pressure was to make a cool painting that people would generally like.  The pressure with doing a commissioned painting is to try and please the specific ideas of what the commissioner wants or thinks they want.  Because the painting is an idea, sometimes commissioners could have unrealistic expectations of what a painting should or could look like.  Unbelievable pressure.

When he was a "gallery painter" he primarily did paintings to be sold in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  So most of his paintings were cowboy and Indians type paintings.  Or landscapes of the Teton Mountains.  Here are a couple of examples I found on the internet.  

Of course being a gallery painter has a lot of pressure as well because if no one buys your painting, you starve.  Also galleries take at least 40% of the profit from the sell so an artist has to paint twice as much to make the same amount of money.

Luckily in the last 10 years because of print sells, my dad hasn't had to do as many commissions.  He now can decide exactly what he wants to paint.  But of course like I said, no matter what you are painting, it is hard work.

So here is an example of how it works.  He has an idea.  Or I have an idea.  Or someone has an idea.  The idea I wanted him to paint for a long long time and FINALLY he painted was the woman taken in adultery from the New Testament.  So we talk about exactly what should be on the painting.  We talk about what the background should be.  Who should be seen.  The positioning of it all.

And then we take pictures.  I say we because it is always a group effort.  First, there has to be models.  I cannot tell you how many times my mom, dad, or even I have walked up to someone and said, "Hey will you model for a painting?"
An example of such models.  (My little brother Craig modeling)
We have closets full of costumes for painting.  We have all sorts of lights.  When my dad is taking pictures my mom and others are holding lights for the pictures.  Taking a good picture is key to making a good painting.  I have spent hours (my dad has probably spent years) looking through slides and later digital pictures trying to find a good image to paint.

Once an image is deemed good enough to paint my dad takes it out to his studio and gets to work.  Of course I don't know the exact details of the process of painting.... remember I am not an artist.  And let's be honest, it is super duper boring watching someone paint.  It's a slow tedious job.  Although I have spent many many hours getting lectured while my dad painted.  But rarely if ever have I actually just sat there and watched him paint for enjoyment.  One memory that is cemented deep in my mind is the sound of my dad painting.  Until around 1998 my dad used the same easel to paint at our house.  It was an old broken down easel that Ricks College was going to get rid of in the early 80's so my dad took it.  Every time my dad would put pressure on a canvas to a paint the whole easel would rattle.  So the sound of my dad painting was the rattle of the easel with either a General Conference talk or baseball playing in the background.  That is the sound of my childhood. 

At many points along the way in his painting, he will bring his painting inside or ask me to come to his studio to look at his painting.  Yes, I said that right.  My dad, a professionally trained and educated artist asks me, a nobody in the art world my opinion about his painting.  (For the record my dad asks anyone and everyone their opinion about his paintings and it shocks people every time.)  Honestly, I think it is one of the best traits of my dad.  He doesn't get offended or hurt whenever anyone critics his paintings, he works hard to fix the problems. I grew up thinking this was totally normal, but when you think about it, if you had been slaving away working your tail off on something for hours upon days even weeks and someone saw it and ripped it to shreds...

Anyway, I actually blame my dad and this ritual from ruining my whole life in two ways.  1. He has groomed me into a pretty decent art critic which is great because I am now an art appreciator and feel like I can really help him, bad because I can't stand bad art.  2. He has taught me to believe that my opinion means something!  It is a terrible trait!  I hate that I think my opinion means something.  My life would be so much better if I thought my opinions didn't matter, or even better just didn't form anything opinions in the first place!

But I digressed.

So my dad would have me look at the painting, tell him what is good, what is bad.  And shockingly, 99.9%  of the time he would change what I said.  (Like I said, giving me this false impression that my opinions matter)

After he finishes the painting, the last thing he does is spray the painting with a varnish.  Although the spray is filled with all sorts of toxic chemicals, I love the smell of it.  For the rest of my life the smell of varnish will always remind me of my dad.

So back to my idea that I wanted my dad to paint, the story of a woman taken in adultery.  I love the story so so so much.  It took years for my dad to see my idea but when he did, he liked it so much that he has painted it a few times trying to make it perfect. (One attempt was purchased by the church to put into a temple so we don't have pictures of it)  But here is one:

The next attempt my dad wouldn't call the same scene but I would.  He called the painting "My Redeemer."  Jason and I loved it so much that we bought it.
Of course since we don't have room for it in our current house, and we don't want to have to move it around, my in laws graciously offered to store it for us until we have a more permanent home.   

So that is an example of what it is like to live with an artist.  

I thought it would be fun to search the internet to find my family members in my dad's paintings. 

Broc is the boy in all three of these paintings.  My mom is in blue on the end painting.

Chad is over Christ's shoulder in this painting.  

Baby Redd (Sara's son) is this baby.

Craig is being blessed in this painting.

And Craig is on the right in this painting.

My mom and Nick are on the right in the this painting.

And most important.  That bowl she is holding?  That is our popcorn bowl.  Every Sunday my whole life we ate popcorn in the evening.  It was always popped into that bowl.  

1 comment:

Susan said...

what a beautiful talent! Amazing paintings.