When I was a little kid I remember that my mother used to paint. Every Wednesday she would leave me with my nana while she went off for a few hours doing I’m not sure what. Eventually at the young age of four I learned that she was going around Gloucester with a group painting. My mother painted water colors of Gloucester and they amazed me. One day I remember asking her if I could come and paint with her. There was a hesitation in her voice, but her younger soul back then had eventually caved to the pleading voice of my innocent youth.
We went to a little beach over near Ten Pound island with a handful of others, easels at the ready to paint. Of course little me with my little easel was horrible at painting and had no idea what to even do, but painting still piqued my interest. Every five minutes while at that little beach I remember pestering my mother about what to do and what color to use. Later on in my life I found out that that had annoyed the ever living daylights out of her, but I wanted to figure out how to paint amazingly just like her. The landscapes she painted always seemed exactly like the setting in front of her, copied with only a brush in her hand. It was an unconceivable concept to me, but I continued to grow and attempt to figure out how she did it.
As I did grow I was constantly asked the question in life what I wanted to be when I grew up. There were many options to think about. Teacher, nurse, doctor, vet, judge, President, etc. My whole little world inside my mind thought of so many opportunities, but never art. From what I saw from my mother it was more of a hobby. I saw my mother bring home beautiful watercolor paintings only for them to be stuffed in a closet or bag never to be seen again. Well, a few of them hang in my house, along with a few other Gloucester styled paintings. The point is that she never sold her beautiful pieces of art, and if she couldn’t how could I?
I haven’t attempted to sell any paintings or pictures of my own today. I did however decide that I wanted to be an artist after years of contemplation and since that decision of a foolish young child I have refused to give it up. It is hard to cling onto a dream anywhere when given the perspectives of everywhere. The world was pretty gloomy and even the most upbeat kid could get upset just by glancing at what lay in our futures. It wasn’t very pretty to look at.
Everything I saw was beautiful. Every painting in every store. Every hand crafted item, whether it be jewelry or a stuffed animal, got my attention. The little details and beauty of everything captivated my mind and imagination to inspire me. Reality hit when stories came to me when not everything is beautiful. Some things just weren’t meant to sell because that is how the world worked. I learned that from my friends in a circle and how Gloucester and Cape Ann are known for their landscapes and seascapes and that is what people come to buy. They think of their Stuart Davis, their Emile Gruppe, Winslow Homer, and that Fitz Henry Lane. There was also Theresa Berstein, Nell Blaine, Jane Peterson, Mary Blood Mellen, Cecilia Beaux, Bessie Hoover Wessel etc. but they aren’t as well known as the male artists anyways.
I do not draw in the Gloucester style. I did not want to draw in the Gloucester style nor did I ever want to be one of the few old ladies positioned across the Cape painting the same picture over and over. Art has some many other better opportunities I had learned. I had learned many things over the years, but there was always something that bothered me since I was little.
Sitting at the table during a quiet day eating lunch my mother sat in her seat at the head of the table doing a crossword puzzle. I looked over at her and asked the simplest question “Why have you never sold your paintings?” Her answer was simple. My mother just saw art as a hobby as many women back in the 1800 and 1900s did. It was a nice way for her to pass the time and to get days away from her kids when we were little. This is in opposition to the women way back when as their kids came before their mental health, but it seemed appropriate that my mother would do something like that. It doesn’t matter though as the only thing that really matters is that she never went in or sold a painting. My mother kept all of them, and although she did eventually use her creativity for other things besides painting it was those paintings made on the Backshore, Lanesville, Downtown, Rockport, Rocky Neck, everywhere that made art seen hobby or not.
And a hobby to one person is a life to another. The only difference being that living off of art will have its obstacles, and you must ride out every wave as if it is the crashing cobalt waves that smash into the breakwater every day.