The man who was my first art teacher passed away on January 5th of this year. Growing up he was my toughest critic (especially when I drew horses!) but always the biggest supporter when it came to my own work. He was also my daddy.
One of the wonderful nurses who attended him in the ICU last month was checking and fussing over him (he was not aware of anything at that point and had come into the hospital that way) and when she got to his right hand, she softly said “this is the hand of a carpenter”. We were floored at her perception, but told her that she was close, he was a woodworker, an artist. We showed her pictures of his work and she thanked us for that.
He was a business man by day but an artist at heart; he could draw and paint, make furniture, design additions to our house (he studied architecture for two years), but his gift was clearly sculpture. Clay, wood, stone and bronze were his media at various time throughout the years. He didn’t have a degree but if all those hours spent in community college and university classes were added up, he’d probably have a BFA.
He was told by his uncle that he had “natural talent” and that he inherited it from his grandmother Fannie. Dad would tell how the local ladies would not dare begin a quilting bee until Miss Fannie had been by to discuss color and pattern. She was also known for designing beautiful arrangements of neighbor’s garden flowers. I relished this story every time I heard it and tried to channel Great Grandmother Fannie as I made a quilt for my first grandson last spring.
Dad’s motivation to create was diminishing in recent years, but he would always ask me in our telephone conversations about my latest work. I’d ask him about his, hoping in those declining days a spark had developed. I was the lucky recipient of one of the last things he created: a walking stick. No, it was not on par with his earlier work but he’d spent days designing a font and carved my name on it. I will cherish it forever.
This past summer I spent a while with them while Mom was recuperating from health issues and used the time on two oil pastel drawings. He seemed to enjoy the work in progress and without prompts from me he would immediately see areas that needed tweaking. What an eye he had! Try as I might, I couldn’t get him interested in trying the oil pastels I was using, but I suspect the soft, gooey feel of them was a deterrent.
Last week I was working on a mural with a friend. I was in charge of drawing the horse that was part of the design. Yep, the legs were all wrong and I could hear the long-ago admonishments from him. And I smiled.