The second month of the year is almost over, and it's time to meet a new artist! I thought it would be fitting to have this month's feature be my earliest influence...and I do mean earliest. That's right, I enlisted my own Grandma to be the first "artist of today," or contemporary artist, interviewed for AoM.
Growing up, Grandma and Grandad's house and yard didn't look like other houses and yards in suburban Texas. Grandma and Grandad's house was cooler.
The decorating style has remained virtually the same over the years: every room floor-to-ceiling covered with paintings (mostly hers), and the yard a jungle of greenery and flowers interspersed with various abstract ceramic sculptures (also mostly hers) and sundry. Her subjects are drawn from a large pool of favorite interests and influences: flora and fauna, the western US, Scotland and family history, the ocean, and people or portraiture.
I "interviewed" Grandma with my prepared questionnaire over the phone--and by that I mean we chatted on the phone and, in between the usual digressions about family goings-on in Texas and cat shenanigans, I had her talk about her life as an artist today.
Facts to Begin:
Name, where you live, and medium(s)
Christy Ann Marshalsay Smith Watenpaugh
Lives in Grapevine, Texas
Mediums include painting (mostly oils) and sculpture (mostly handbuilt ceramic)
More to Know:
What’s your current “jam”?: in the following categories, what is something you recently discovered or are really into right now?
Song – "Weep You No More Sad Fountains"; or, the song Marianne (played by Kate Winslett) plays/sings in the most excellent 1995 movie Sense and Sensibility.
Work of Art – The Church at Auvers by Van Gogh. Check out this version she painted of it for my Aunt and Uncle:
Book/reading – Grandma loves anything to do with family history, and especially loves first-hand accounts we have of ancestors' lives and adventures. One of these is a vanity-published novel by a relation detailing the many experiences she had traveling back and forth between her homeland of Scotland and America: Sailing East and Sailing West by Edith Drewett Glass and edited by Gloria Amelia Glass Stanton.
Food – If at home, that staple of the South: grits; if out to eat, anything with salmon
Movie/video/documentary/etc. – Downton Abbey. She and an English friend like rehashing the episodes while walking dogs in the neighborhood.
What do you love about the place you live?
"It’s so pretty and peaceful. Probably the nicest place I’ve ever lived as an adult."
If you weren’t an artist, what would you do?
"Some sort of job where I would be out in nature." Her description of the ideal job title is “hanging out in the woods with the critters."
Grandma couldn't think of any specific quote to choose for this part; however, one of her favorite things is watching and quoting movies, especially old comedies. She loves the carefree, the quirky, and the madcap--so when asked about possible favorite quotes she immediately brought up her favorite movie, the 1938 film adaptation of the play You Can't Take It With You. In her words: "You can take pretty much any line from that movie and it could be a favorite quote of mine. I even like the title as a quote!" It's true that good times with Grandma are often peppered with references to this and similar (The Pink Panther and Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, to name a few).
Silly “would you rather” question:
...be able to breathe underwater or fly through the air?
"Breathe underwater because I love the water--and I do like flying okay but if I'm the one having to do the flying I’m not so sure about that."
Grandma's work is a great example of using art as a way to show love for the important things in your life. Any culture, creature, person, or creation that has captured her affection ends up on the canvas. There is a strong sense of place in her pictures as well: anywhere she has been that holds a spot in her heart holds a spot (or two, or five) on her wall. The freedom and colorful quality shown in her more abstract pieces and variations on historical works speak of her "go with the flow," humor-filled personality and desire to live life coloring outside the lines. Art has such a capacity for showing the world who you are, and no one shows it better than Grandma.
Create your own take on a famous work of art. Grandma painted Van Gogh's The Church at Auvers but used a bolder color palette. You can do something along the same lines, such as painting a Georgia O'Keefe flower but in black and white. Or use a completely different format! Van Gogh on a dress? Absolutely. Andy Warhol pop art cookies? You can go there. Have fun with some old favorites--really studying something familiar with the mindset of re-creation can add to your original appreciation of the work, improve technique and observation, and exercise your creativity muscle!
When you challenge yourself with art, sometimes you end up with a bomb Halloween costume.
The Church at Auvers (painting), 1890, by Vincent Van Gogh
Downton Abbey (television show), 2010-2015
The Icebergs (painting), 1861, by Frederic Edwin Church
Sailing East and Sailing West (book), by Edith Drewett Glass and edited by Gloria Amelia Glass Stanton
Sense and Sensibility (movie), 1995
You Can't Take it With You (movie), 1938