My friend Katherine and I have known each other for over fifty years. Wow! Fifty years. A half century. I certainly never expected to be writing that sentence about us. Especially back when we met as fresh faced five year olds.
We met in Kindergarten and went to school together up through our freshman year. We lived only a couple of blocks away from each other, our birthdays are only 5 days apart, and our mothers went to high school together. In retrospect, I don’t think any of this was coincidence. I think it’s exactly how it was supposed to be.
Katherine and I were always the acknowledged class artists. We didn’t openly compete, but when everything you do is being compared to someone else’s work, it’s hard not to feel a little competitive. Even back then, our styles were completely different from each others, and I wish I could’ve spent more time recognizing her abilities instead of feeling like I had to do as well or better every time the class was assigned an art project.
Despite the fact that we could’ve competed ourselves into a nice little mutual dislike drama, we were friends. Living so close together, we frequently got together to sketch or paint. I honestly could not tell you about a single thing I painted, but I can tell you in great detail about a painting she did when we were in Junior High. It was her version of the cover art for Joe Cocker’s 1971 release, Mad Dogs and Englishmen. I can’t remember if my jaw actually dropped when she showed it to me, but it should have. Her version was electric and if A &M Records had seen it, she might have had an early career in album cover art.
When we entered Junior High, our paths started to diverge. We went to a large school that combined multiple grade schools. I don’t remember us having any classes together, but I do remember running into her in the bathroom where we both ducked in to steal a few forbidden smokes. (Yes, we both smoked in junior high, it was the nerd girl key to popularity in those days.)
After our freshman year, we both moved away from the neighborhood. She moved in with an Aunt in another state, and my mother married my step-father, causing me to change school districts. We were both in the middle of our individual teenage angst and we lost touch for literally decades.
About five years ago, Katherine decided to try and get back in touch. Our mothers had their 60th high school reunion and Katherine went through the paperwork that her mother received and found my mother’s contact information. She then emailed my mom and asked her to get in touch with me. Mom did, and Kathy and I have been communicating ever since.
We started out, naturally, by getting caught up on each other’s lives. Katherine is married and lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. She had pursued her dream of dancing, but a back issue that she’d had her entire life prevented her from reaching the levels she had aspired to. But she’d always kept painting and drawing. In her emails and letters, she would gently remind me of my former love of art.
In the fall of 2014 Katherine and I were emailing and we were talking about starting to paint again. She had spent her entire life sketching and doing pastels, but she told me she would love to get back into oil painting. We went back and forth a number of times giving each other the pro’s and con’s of working in oil. As I closed her last email I saw I had a new email. It was from Michael Molick of Molick Gallery inviting the reader (me) to start oil painting classes.
I had already altered my life to focus on writing and teaching yoga and my income was greatly reduced. The price that was given for the painting class was reasonable, but not in my budget. I went to bed that night saddened that I couldn’t pursue taking the class. As I fell asleep, I realized that Michael’s email coming at the exact time Katherine and I were talking about oil painting was not a coincidence. It was a pretty clear message that I had better take that class. I woke up the next morning resolved to sign up for the class and to let the Universe bring the money. So, I did.
From the minute I walked into the studio, I fell back in love. I will be forever grateful that I listened to Katherine and the Universe and took the classes. My evolution has been relatively quick up to this point and my work is ever changing. It has become my habit to text Katherine pictures of each piece when it’s done. If I get stuck on a painting and can’t figure out what to do, she gets a picture to evaluate. I may not always follow her suggestions, but her comments always help me to look at my work differently. She is one of my biggest cheerleaders and I respect and value her opinions.
I am also a big fan of her work. She can capture someone’s personality in a quick sketch that would take most people hours to produce. I am amazed by what she can quickly throw together using pastels and dark paper. She has other pieces that may take days or weeks, but my favorites are always the ones that are what she calls “scribbles.”
So, have we come full circle? I don’t think so; there is absolutely no feelings of competition between us. We’re now adults who realize the benefits of supporting another artist. I think we’re both going to continue to encourage and promote each other for the rest of our careers.
We’ve talked about a number of projects we’d like to do together. Doing a show together is one idea; I think our story is almost as interesting as our artwork and I think the story might generate some interest. In addition, I have written a children’s book that Katherine has agreed to illustrate. I just need to pull out the manuscript and give it another edit and then give her a free reign to create beautiful art to go with the story. I’m sure as we continue to talk and exchange thoughts ideas and projects will continue to come to us.
Because of her cursed back, it is agony for Katherine to travel, which makes driving to Kansas City impractical. I work Saturdays, so it’s difficult for me to take a weekend trip anywhere and I hate the idea of not having time to really enjoy a visit. Despite these issues, I’m sure we’re still going to meet in person again.
No matter what, I am so grateful that Katherine has come back into my life. I give her a lot of the credit for some of the changes I’ve made in my life. I enjoy our talks and the quirkiness of some of our conversations. Plus, there’s just something fitting about going into my second childhood with such a good friend from my first one by my side.