Have you always been an artist?
I get this question quite often and I don’t really know how to reply. I have hastily and without much thought replied with, “I used to like to color when I was little.” This usually brings some laughter but it is the only “art” I remember engaging in as a child. When I was a little older I tried drawing, but didn’t have great success and gave it up. We had arts and crafts in grade school, but nothing very significant that would lead me to think of myself as artistic. I went to a small school where art wasn’t an option in high school. I did take a graphic arts class at a vo-tech school my senior year and was all signed up to major in Graphic Arts in College until I changed my mind at the last minute and majored in Parks and Recreation at a completely different college instead.
Several years passed in between without much creativity at all, but I think the artist was always there and building up waiting for the day I found the perfect medium.
Studying Art without Realizing It
I grew up on a farm in SE North Dakota where we raised cattle, pigs, sheep and chickens, Oh and grain, lots of grain. My main interest was the animals. Our farm was also home to horses, kitties and a dog. Some of my activities on the farm included raking hay, bunching bales, driving grain truck, rounding up the cows on horseback plus various other jobs. When I was 9 I joined 4H and began showing cattle with my family at local shows. Cows continue to be one of my favorite animals to sculpt.
One of my favorite things to do other than play with them was take pictures of the animals. This was before digital cameras and I would often fill an entire roll of film with different shots of the cats, sheep or whatever other animal I thought was extra photogenic at the moment. My parents thought I would outgrow it, but guess what? Check out my instagram and facebook! 🙂 I didn’t outgrow it. I collected these pictures in albums blurry or not. I still have these albums filled with blurry pictures of animals that I have long since forgotten and a few pictures of friends and family mingled throughout.
I tried to draw animals, spending a lot of time trying to perfect this art but didn’t feel I had a gift for drawing. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was developing my artistic eye in studying these animals, there expressions, personalities, their beauty and how they were put together.
This has nothing to do with growing up on a farm but it was a major factor in teaching me attention to detail. I loved stuffed animals as a child and maybe held onto this love a little longer than I should have, possibly into junior high. My entire bed was covered with them. In my mind they were alive and had feelings so I made sure they were comfortable at all times. I was frustrated with stuffed animals that were ugly, scary or just didn’t have any expression at all. I wished they could be a little more realistic and when I found one that passed my quality inspection I had to add it to my collection. I think this is what continues to drive my desire to make animals with creative expressions and realistic features.