My First Love

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When I was in first grade, at a parent/teacher conference, the teacher gave my mother a ceramic plaque I had made. She and my mother were both impressed by the artistic skills I showed in that early work. I thought nothing of it at the time because it didn’t turn out the way I envisioned it. Yes, even at age 6 I had high expectations of myself.

Much to my embarrassment, Mom kept that plaque in her bedroom from that time forward. She kept it through divorce, remarriage and our teenage years. She kept it the whole time her grandchildren and then her great-grandchildren were wreaking havoc in her home. She kept it with her precious pictures in the bedroom of the small Senior Living apartment she moved into when she became a widow. It was always there.

When Mom passed away last December, it was the tearful duty of her children and grandchildren to go through that small apartment and decide who was going to get what of her treasured belongings. I only took a few things; an orange shirt because that was the color Mom loved to wear; the engagement ring my step-father gave her that I helped pick out; framed pictures of my grandchildren; a couple of paintings I did in the last couple of years; and that plaque.

Looking at that plaque, I now realize it did show an impressive degree of skill for a 6 year-old. The lines I drew in the wet clay with a toothpick show a higher level of talent than the brushwork does, but overall, it’s a pretty damn good piece of work. I also realize that plaque was the starting point of a life-long love of art.

As a young girl, painting and drawing were what I loved to do. With the perspective of an adult I now realize how amazingly supportive my family was of my interest in all things art: Mom was constantly looking for art classes for me to take during summer school; Daddy set up an art corner in our basement for me to keep my art supplies in and work in; my Uncle George gave me boxes of art supplies for Christmas; and when I was in 7th grade my sister talked the owner of the candy shop where she worked into displaying and selling some of my paintings.

I am also amazed at what a great art education the public school offered. I learned things in grade school that I now realize some art school graduates are not as comfortable with. I think since it was something I was interested in and I learned it so early, a lot of information that other people have to think about is just second nature to me.

The other advantage our schools offered was the opportunity to exhibit our work publicly at a very young age. I distinctly remember an entire section of a local art fair being dedicated to prize-winning art work from the grade school and junior high. Having my work shown while I was still so young gave me a confidence in my work that is hard to explain.

So, you may ask, how does someone with so much support, encouragement and education give up their dreams for 40 years? Well, ego is funny thing. No matter how supportive others were of my work, I always wanted to do better than I did. I now realize that you can still create good work even when it doesn’t look the way you had it pictured in your head. Unfortunately, I didn’t have that knowledge when I entered college and decided to set my paints and sketch pads aside.

Fast forward those 40 years and I am happy to say that art and painting returned to my life with a bang. I have been fortunate to have numerous exhibits and displays of my artwork in the year and a half since I returned to that first love. People have been unbelievably generous in giving me opportunities to regain my confidence while allowing me to work in my own unique way.

I’ve known for a while that I needed to build a webpage to display my work, but I kept waiting for the right time. Finally, this week, the pieces all fell into place and I have launched a new webpage, artbyjeanmcguire.com, and I am so happy with the results. I worked with Zac and Dan at foliotwist.com and they were a pleasure to work with. When I asked Dan what he felt their strengths were, he had great answers:

“I think we really have two main points. . .  1. Foliotwist is truly easy to use because we’ve made our system from scratch, specifically for artists. There are a lot of big companies out there that sell websites to everybody, and they have big marketing budgets, but they don’t really know what artists need. And 2. We’re all about personal contact and helping our artists. You don’t get a response from a help-desk; you actually talk to me.

Beyond that, we’re basically a small scrappy start-up going up against a lot of corporate competition. 🙂 So we really do know the struggle that artists face to get their work out there. We love feedback and we always try to improve our service when our artists ask for something important.

If you send people our way, let them know they can email us and we’ll email right back – about anything. That’s the biggest trouble we have, I think. . . everyone figures they have to do it on their own, but they really don’t.”

I hope you like the new webpage and I would love to hear your comments and suggestions. I also would love to hear of any former loves you’ve returned to.

What are your thoughts?