NO! NO! Not at all. My two sisters and I were each seven years apart in age. I was the youngest. One day, when I was about seven I watched my middle sister, who was fourteen, working on her art homework from John Burroughs Junior High School. It made such an impression on me that I’ve always remembered the painting and how it affected me. She has no memory of it, at all. Using watercolors, the painting was of a piece of driftwood, an apple beside it, and a watch with a chain draped over the driftwood. I was stunned that she could capture those images so perfectly, so accurately. Blown away, I don’t think that phrase was used then, but that’s how I felt. Immediately, I told myself that I was no artist…nope, no artist indeed…wouldn’t even try. If I couldn’t paint like that, then forget about it. And who at age seven could paint like that?
Yet, despite my intimidation, as a young girl, I would spend endless hours at my desk or on the floor, listening to radio shows like, Lets Pretend, Aldrich Family, Father Knows Best, Burns and Allen, while drawing pictures of princesses on horses, wearing beautiful gowns, pretty houses with blue skies, filling in coloring books…should I press hard for dark colors or outline hard and press lightly inside the lines? Big creative decisions. I did it because I loved coloring. But “I was no artist.” My mother would yell “go outside and play.” Today, I encourage children to just experience color and drawing and not think about what it “should look like.” Putting color and energy on paper, that’s enough. It’s the process of creating that’s important not the visual perception.
My mother taught me how to knit and embroider. Again, I loved working with my hands. I helped her create two huge tablecloths, we cross- stitched them working together, each starting from a different end. We would listen to the radio and do cross-stitch. I can’t believe she let me work with her because I was so young and inexperienced. I still have these tablecloths, wrapped carefully and stored. These are precious to me and hold so many wonderful “mother” memories.
My mother had incredible eye-hand coordination as well as an artistic sensibility. Her knitting was perfection. Not too loose, not too tight, just perfect stitches. She also had beautiful murals painted on our kitchen and dining room walls. There were yellow roses climbing up a lattice in the kitchen and an ocean harbor theme in the dining room. Now, I’m not sure if that was the style of the day or just my mother’s need to have beauty around her.
My father had trained in Russia to be a dental technician. He was very proud of his profession. When he came to America he quickly gained the reputation of making the most perfect false teeth in Los Angeles. Then the Depression hit, people could not afford to have beautiful teeth made. With a family to support, he went to work for his brothers, as a foreman in a burlap bag company. That was the end of his career. So sad. Both my parents had very finely tuned hand and eye skills. We did not realize at the time that their talents were in fact, pure artistry.
Me? I still said ‘no art.” I got involved with music—studied classical piano, musical theater, and a cappella choir. When I took a required painting class in 7th grade, my teachers loved my art and were constantly complementing me. I figured they didn’t know what they were talking about, ignored them and went on my way, away from art. In high school, I continued singing and appearing in musicals. I joined the debate society because my boyfriends were involved in it. I even won a state wide competition. At the same time I was obsessed with making scrolls. Scrolls were expressions and gifts of friendship and “have a nice day” that you pinned up on school bulletin boards to surprise your friends. They were created with parchment papers, flowers, ribbons, sprinkles, colored inks, wrapped over and around styrofoam. I spent so much time making and giving them away, I didn’t want to study. Hmm? Yet, I still never considered it “art.” My mother had to pry me away to do my homework. So that is the beginning, You’ll have to stay tuned to hear “the rest of the story.”
Did you become the person you thought you’d be when you were young?
You can check out my art at www.sandrasallin.com