A couple of weeks ago, I got to tour the home studio of one of Colorado’s local artists. Her name is Jan Myers and she first came to my notice because three of her paintings had been donated as silent auction items to the non-profit I work for. The three paintings were landscapes and I thought they were beautiful. I looked up Ms. Myers and found her website. Perusal of said site brought me to the painting “Duck Cove Pond with Folly”. I fell in love, my crafty brain generated an idea, and I called Ms. Myers.
Let me digress a bit to say no one is ever going to accuse me of being an art expert. I don’t have an eye for it. Modern art confuses me and the prices for what amounts to little more than colored swoops on a canvas horrify me. I like pretty things. My favorite painter is Claude Monet. I love the misty look to his landscapes, the soft colors: I feel soothed when I look at it. I liked Ms. Myer’s paintings for the same reason. The colors were vivid, yet blended in her landscapes so that I had that same anticipation looking at them; like, if I were to go that magical place, anything would be possible. And, because I like pretty pictures of flowers, trees, and ocean-scapes; I love my mother’s paintings.
A treat for my mother was the cunning plan generated by my brain. I first called Ms. Myers before my mother’s birthday and asked if she gave studio tours, thinking what an awesome birthday present that would be. Ms. Myers works in pastels which is a medium my mother doesn’t have any experience in. My mother started in water colors and has only recently moved to acrylics. I thought seeing another artist’s work, where and how another artist worked, and being able to talk to another artist would be good for Mom. I tell her I like her paintings, mention the colors in one, the details in another, but I thought she needed contact with another painter. Ms Myers was gracious and said ‘come’. We set up a time.
Life intervened and it was closer to Mother’s Day before we made it out to Ms. Myer’s home. It was worth the wait: the visit was everything I hoped for my mother. Ms. Myers would describe a little of her process and I would see my mother come alive because she’d thought and felt the same way. I was left alone in the living room with a collection of John Steinbeck’s short stories while my mother and Ms. Myers retreated to the back room where I could hear them muttering and exclaiming together.
After a time, Ms. Myers joined me, leaving my mother to have her first experiment with pastels. And then, something happened I did not expect. Ms. Myers and I began to discuss our processes and, though we were painter and writer, she and I shared similar struggles, similar processes, and were able to connect one to the other.
It was a strange mind shift for me; thinking of myself as an artist. Most of my writing time is spent in my office in the basement, staring into the gaping maw of my computer monitor, trying to focus on the story in my mind instead of seeking out reasons to distract myself. I’m not out staring at a mountain, seeking to capture colors, light, and texture or traveling to places that inspire me with a hope of sharing a little of what I see. I’m not an artist. Or am I?
I seek out isolated wilderness spots, journal in hand, attempting to put what I see in words. How would I describe the sound of the wind in the trees? How would I write the green and the blue I see without using ‘green’ or ‘blue’? As I spoke with Ms. Myers, I saw that we were more alike than not despite her painting on canvas while I painted in print. I was most excited to learn Ms. Myers was taking classes despite painting for over 40 years. Even though she has decades of experience under her belt, she seeks out different techniques, tests out new styles, and her work moves in different directions. It’s the same with me. I’m constantly learning, tweaking, honing my voice in print. I’ll have to accept that I’ll never be satisfied with my manuscript and send it out: there will always be room for growth and change. I will, I promise (myself), but that day hasn’t yet come. There are details missing, holes I need to fill. Ms Myers said she has to put her paintings away for a time; then haul them out, set them up, and see what details she’s missed. I laughed (in relief) when she said that. I do the same thing: look at my manuscript with fresh eyes to see what keeps it from being whole.
It was a bit of an uncomfortable conversation for me albeit a nice, stretching of the consciousness sort. I was relieved when our conversation moved from processes to discussing books; one of my favorite subjects and one we had not exhausted when my mother finished her pastel experiment and it was time for us to call it a day. I wanted more than anything to purchase my “Duck Cove Pond with Folly” painting but finances don’t currently allow. Instead, I found a card Ms. Myers had made with a photo of the painting. I’ll look at that until I can afford the painting itself. The place draws me. I think it’s the sort of place a writer-an artist-would feel inspired.
Here are some of my favorite paintings by Jan Myers:
And some examples of my mother’s work:
Interested in checking out more of Jan Myers’ work? Here’s her website:
Still trying to convince Mom to post her work…