I can remember the first original painting I fell in love with. I was about nine and we were visiting friends of my parents, and the woman was a painter who did glamourous watercolour paintings of women, in a style I’d now call Paris when it Sizzles. The one I liked best had a woman in a flowing turquoise dress, a wine glass balanced on a café table and her hair swaying flirtatiously to one side. They had no children for me to play with, and I must have spent much of the evening admiring her artwork. When we went to leave, the woman gave me a look that was half skeptical and half proud. “Do you really like this?” she asked, and I nodded, still transfixed. She removed the painting from its frame and handed it to me. I was astounded and thanked her. I took it back to my room and hung it up there, continuing to admire it for many years.
Although we had a lot of original art in our house, it was the first time I realized that paintings could be about a subject that interested me. I was young and the painting reminded me of my glamourous Barbie doll catalogues. I was less interested in the landscapes and abstractions in our house, especially since I realize now that my mother preferred palettes of earth colours like avocado green, mustard and brown, all colours I hate to this day. I think the inspiration from that painting carried through for years, as I drew multiple women and even took a class in fashion illustration. To this day, I still paint flowing, wide-skirted dresses.
So from this humble beginning, I do realize the importance that a single painting can have in the life of a child. Start with Art is an art show I have been involved since it began, and it provides the chance for a child to buy a professional painting at a very reasonable price. In fact, you have to be a child (under 16) to even make a purchase at the show! Sarah Cavanaugh, the new curator at the Seymour Art Gallery, has taken exactly the right approach to the show, striving to get the best possible artists to participate. Ross Penhall and Peter Kiss are both involved, and Ross Penhall’s very valuable painting will be in a draw that anyone can participate in.
Artists love to support this show because they understand the importance of art for children. In the early days of the show, one artist told me, “I want to paint something important that will inspire the kids!” It’s not all about cute art that talks down to kids, but rather real paintings that kids can take from their rooms at home to their first apartment.
Having set this rather lofty goal, I have to admit I still like to do representational paintings for the show, since I think it’s what the kids prefer. I’ve painted hockey equipment, various animals and of course, dresses. This year it’s cats. I’m experimenting with layering, so I’ve created a complex process: first an abstract background on paper, mounted it on board and then painted a cat silhouette on glass and reversed the glass into the frame.
A usual, a picture is worth a thousand words:
So, Start with Art opens on Tuesday, May 1. Here are all the details. If you have kids in your life, I recommend taking them. I’ll be there, and more importantly, there will be candy and popcorn.
Tomorrow, I’ll post the first paintings you fell in love with, with the responses to the April contest.