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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Art Star

My mother was first to declare me a budding artist. I was about four years old when I sat out in our back yard with a pad and pencil. "Here, Joycie, see if you can draw this cow," she said as she handed me a magazine tear-out photo. Maybe it was her way of trying to slow down a super active little girl while putting baby brother in bed for his afternoon nap. Later she found me still at it. She took the page out of my lap and let out a squeal of delight. I remember enough about that drawing to know that it was no childish rendition but a truly good likeness of that cow. So, I learned right then what genuine praise at an early age can do to set a star in the heavens for a child. That star for me was art.

At first a pencil and paper were enough. In about the sixth grade I entered a magazine contest and won a certificate to an art school. Trouble was the school was about a hundred miles away in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Our small town high school had no frilly subjects like art. It was strictly academic although music and sports ranked high. I contented myself by drawing in my spare time.

Entering Riverside Junior College in 1943, I was still aiming for that art career star. I took the only art course still given, Art Appreciation. The reason? During WWII all non-essential courses in state schools were dropped. My further education in art would be on hold until after I'd earned the mandatory credits. But after those first two years another career intercepted art. I married at nineteen and became a Marine officer's wife, then a mother. I watched gladly to see our third child, Robin, become the artist I might have been. She had every advantage in that direction, a burning desire to be an artist from the age of three, plenty of art classes in the artist community where she grew up, a college scholarship in art, a summertime booth at the art festival in Laguna Beach and a promising career that is blossoming today.

In 1986, after becoming a Marine widow, I enrolled in a clay sculpting class in the Laguna. It turned out that I was the only one in the class to learn sculpting. The rest made pots and the teacher set me off in a corner by myself with several how-to books, a few tools and a large block of clay. After the first week I knew I'd found my niche. I quit my job as a secretary in a retirement community and dove into what was to become my art star chase at last.

I'd hardly begun when life threw me another path, the building of a dream house in my old home town in Minnesota. There I had a big studio, a kiln, and a new life. Until, that is, I went to Summer Session for Adults at Principia College to take a course in sculpting. There another side road showed up, marriage to Dr. Robby, a retired college professor at that school. I sold my house and moved to West County, St. Louis. Sculpting again took a back seat.

Now, nearly seven years after my eight year marriage to Robby, I have belatedly begun again. I sculpt faces. I can do full figures but only the faces interest me. They come out of the clay almost forcefully as if I have nothing more to do than let my hands and fingers go to it. In a little while someone begins to appear. Someone gives me the eye, the smile (yes, they all smile) and I am hooked until the face and I have bonded and it says, "Thank you, Joycie!"

The faces are coming now, two, three, four a day. I'm in heaven and find it hard to keep up with my housework, much less reading and all the other to-do's that come along. Robin is helping me to get ready for being juried for the art festival next summer. She thinks I have a good chance to get in. She's also suggested a name for my faces: Beautiful People. They don't have the ordinary kind of beauty and some might think them homely, (though I can't imagine why!) Each has an inner beauty, that shines through. I take a lump of clay and don't quit until someone, a real person and someone I absolutely love, comes out.

Here's how I'll market them soon, with this note on their numbered certificate declaring that there is only one original of them. It says:


Out of clay I come to you
with only a hope for one more view
of a life I lived and a place I knew
on a planet called

Joyce Darling Collections - original sculpture #______

I have no delusions that these, my faces, will make me famous. I'll leave that to heaven. I just revel each day in the joy of having found my way to my star and the inspiration to get with it. I may never make a fortune. That's irrelevant to me. Clay is not expensive. My tools don't wear out. The faces keep coming and I feel like I've finally found a darn good reason for living. Now I must not get de-railed again. I think I've learned at last to stay on the beam!

Monday, October 15, 2012

My Own Politics

Every four years when these United States ask their citizens to vote for President and Vice President I feel a sense of responsibility to re-examine my own desires of how I’d like to see this country run, what aims the parties profess and how much I trust the candidates to be truthful and capable. It presents a burden on me to exercise my best judgment and cast my ballot. So, I listen to the arguments, weigh the positions carefully and then ask myself, How do I want our country to be governed and who do I think can best guide it to that end. Here it comes down not to party allegiance but just me. Suddenly I feel a sense of saying, with real strength behind my convictions, which way I’d like to see my country go. How? I cast my ballot.

The long process of campaigns can be wearisome but the more I listen to others the better picture I get in my own mind. I try to be as objective as possible to determine which of the candidates best represent my own views. I even try to wipe the slate clean of old prejudices and loyalties. I want what I know everyone wants, the best leaders with the best ideas.

Now, the one thing I find most difficult in all this is the discovery that some in my own family, some of my best friends, see it all differently. Either I choose to speak up and hope that feelings won’t erupt in a hurtful way or keep silent on the subject. It is such a temptation to argue, but rarely does that help. On the other hand, keeping silent is hard to do. But that is what my parents did. So well did they conceal their political preferences that I cannot tell to this day what party each of them belonged to or whom they voted for. The only reason I can give for this is that they owned a small business and by tipping their hats to one or the other side they might alienate a good number of their customers. In my early years I never could keep a secret. Even when I got older and chose for myself I could not tease their politics out of them. 

I wish, yes, I wish that, except for those who feel inspired to get out and work for the party and its candidates, all of us could keep our politics to ourselves. I wish each one of us could contain our feelings and arguments and let our vote be, as it’s supposed to be, secret. I have not done that myself but I wish I had.

Today I am casting my ballot. It is early because I’ve been given an absentee ballot due to a hip replacement I had a few years back. After weighing both sides carefully (and prayerfully), I have made up my mind. I suspect those closest to me can guess which way I voted but I wish they couldn’t. Many of my friends and relatives vote their own conscience and leave the talk-talk to the professional politicians. I admire that.

Here’s all the best to everyone who is eligible to vote in this USA. Let each of us have our say, and let it speak with conviction and power, on election day.

Afterwards I may smile amiably but with my lips closed and my vote still a carefully kept secret!