At the end of March, the Williams Mill Visual Arts Centre will be celebrating 20 Years in Glen Williams with a special show featuring the Mill Artists. That’s right, this jewel of the Glen has been sharing and nurturing the arts for over 2 decades! Throughout the year as we reflect on the beginnings of this historic landmark mill artists will be sharing the stories of their own ‘early years’ as well. Fortunate to have a studio at the Williams Mill myself I have been pondering my creative roots and how it is I came to call myself artist.
Do you remember the ads on matchbooks and in comic books inviting you to draw fawns and turtles, and other pen-and-ink characters? You sent your sketch to the experts at the Art Instruction School, and they would decide whether you had enough talent to be a “serious art student”. If you did you would be one of the lucky few allowed to benefit from their teaching. I used to hope that some day I might be good enough to draw one of those little critters, imagining myself receiving a letter in the mail akin to Harry Potter getting his first letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and being invited to go to a school where I could make and create to my hearts content and be immersed in the magical world of all things art.
From a young age I would settle in on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons, keeping company with Bugs Bunny, Rocky & Bullwinkle and Yogi Bear and Boo Boo. A sketchbook would be spread before me while busily working through all of the ‘learning to draw lessons’ in my sister’s Walter Foster Drawing Book. The Disney movies of the time had me recreating characters from Bambi, Winnie the Pooh and Jungle Book. Saturday afternoons, my father and I watched Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins and on Sunday evenings we reveled in our shared time together curled up on the couch enjoying shows like Black Beauty, Flipper and Gentle Ben where animals were anthropomorphized in a way that made them leading characters on prime time television. The weekend was complete when tucked in with a bedtime story about the Green Forests Peter Rabbit, Sammy Jay, Bobby Raccoon and friends written by children’s author Thornton Burgess. These storybooks were accompanied by detailed illustrations of animals donning straw hats, coveralls, topcoats and other fashionable garb (many of which are the inspiration for my own work today).
The tapestry woven in my childhood of solitary and untethered imagining, time spent with the undivided attention of my father nurturing and encouraging my foray into the magical and wondrous world of animals and make believe informed my heart desire. Somewhere between my passion to create and the storybook world of my minds eye my love of art was born… and I live there still.