Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thrum & Twang

Thrum and Twang 

(Or where did I get the urge to draw?)

Isn't it maddening how some people can act AND sing AND dance AND write books and music, paint, play killer saxophone and host a TV show all in one lifetime?  Others build fantastic buildings, take amazing photographs, cook gourmet meals, compose music, play piano concertos, create Broadway musicals or plays, invent or make earthshaking discoveries, cure diseases .... sometimes in all sorts of crazy combinations.  Not many humans can successfully pull off truly high degrees of multi-level creativity, but every person IS endowed with this creative bone that can twang around in all directions.  Many do not heed the call, but many others listen to the twang and let it vibrate through them, some latching on to one or another of the internal thrummings, and others spreading their wings to encompass a whole lot more.

How someone translates one or more of these into successful expression seems to involve genetic makeup and family influence along with ambition plus a certain amount of good fortune.  And as for the super multi-expressive?  Just pure genius that we who are not of that ilk can only gawk at in wonder.  

It is interesting to examine the roots of your own special interests.

My twangs had me walking around with a sketch book in hand all the time as a kid.  So I always thought of myself as an "artist".   Once in 2nd grade, one of my drawings produced for me a prize box of pastels from the principal who had been substitute teaching our class.  There was a nice little hint.

My dad was a successful architect who also loved gardening and remodeling our home, plus when he wasn't out on the golf course, he could be found making wonderful things in his workshop like salad bowls and mosaic tables.  He and my mother were always putting up jars of veggies and a wicked mustard-pickle concoction called "Chow Chow" with produce from his huge garden and lining the shelves of the pantry with them.  We were well stocked!  He came over to this country from Herning, Denmark as a baby with his mother, father and seven brothers and sisters.  Of all of them, he was the most energetic, ambitious and prosperous.

My mother was truly a culinary artist, spending many hours slaving in the kitchen, the uphot of such efforts often making her a bit crabby.  (OK, even a lot crabby.)  She, and we, suffered for her art.  And not being much of a feeder when young, I didn't much like some of her more non-kid type concoctions like Prune Whip and Chicken Livers (yuk, still).  But I was a perverse, skinny child who will never forget her Pecan Dreams and Rum Pie.  (I fed a lot of oatmeal and softboiled eggs to our cocker spaniel, Topsy, under the kitchen table when no one was looking.)  Nice.  Mother later became a devoted follower of Julia Childs'  "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and with more maturity I finally became a fan.

Then there were the "hats".  (Dreadful things to me at the time, again an unworthy critic.) But she would often get up in the middle of the night with some mad inspiration for a headdress spiked with pheasant feathers snagged from one of my father's hunting trips.  Her Mad Hatter phase lasted long enough to fill a few closet shelves and cover a few reluctant church-going heads.

My older sister was also a sketchbook artist along with me and we recorded our impressions of mostly animals and people all the time.  Don't remember who inspired us to stick with this so loyally, but it defined our thrummings to a tee.  We would sketch characters (especially the odder ones) who populated the train station in downtown Chicago where we would go as a family and wait to pick up my father every Friday night when he was commuting from Flint, Michigan on a special job.  My sister once grabbed the attention of a young serviceman while sketching a rather portly woman, but I don't think he was really interested in the sketch.  It took me years to figure this out.  She went off to study at the Art Institute of Chicago and I was in awe of her life drawings, still life paintings and especially her advertising design piece for Johnny Mercer.  I had someone to look up to and emulate.

I also had a big brother who made things with his hands (created some fabulous workshop puppets for me one Christmas), invented many unique things out of parts from objects he had disassembled and was always working on his to-die-for Lionel Train set built up on a retractable platform that easily filled half of his bedroom.  I was once allowed to act as Engineer, running the train as it wound its way through tunnels in the miniature tree-lined mountains and stopped at all the tiny stations, whoo-whooing all the way.  He went off to Parris Island and served in the Marines and then came home to study architecture and join my dad's firm.

So I was influenced by my family to latch onto some thrummings.  I did the sketchbook thing (still do it), and then began following various internal twangs for awhile.  Studied life drawing, watercolor and sculpture before going on to take advertising design courses at the Rhode Island School of Design.  Over the years with family and other obligations taking precedent, I have pursued my art intermittently but relentlessly, and now fulltime.  Related interests include photography, writing, gardening and cooking.

The rich background I came from did have its notable levels of creativity.  A funny thing happened then, with one thing inspiring and informing another and so on, thrumming and twanging along on its merry way.  

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