Chill Factor


Acrylic on 10″ x 8″ Stretched Canvas

I moved to Florida from Missouri in 1973 to escape the cold winters. We still have a little bit of winter in Gainesville but it doesn’t last long, so I hibernate on cold days and try to paint some sunshine but sometimes the cold creeps into my work. Last night when I started this painting my daughter Kathryn was at my apartment. “Pick a color.” I said to her. “Blue” was her answer.  So I filled the canvas with French Ultramarine Blue and Titanium White and snow began to flurry.

As I painted, I remembered walking in a fresh falling snow one winter night when I was still in high school. Huge fluffy snowflakes were dancing around the street lights in mad swirls, landing on my black gloves long enough to show me their delicate pattern before dissolving to dew drops. The energy of that moment is painted into and resides forever in this painting. It didn’t seem so cold that night. Just an absence of warm colors.

On the last day of school in 1972 I turned in my resignation to the principal of Coleman Elementary School where I was The Art Teacher for grades one through six.  My office was a utility closet I shared with the music teacher.   On my side of the closet were shelves for supplies and a cart with wheels  and on her side were shelves for music books and a piano on wheels.  When the cart and the piano were both in the closet there was no space for us. Each student got one hour of art each week and one hour of music each week in their classroom. Neither art nor music was important enough to have a room of its own.

I never intended to be a teacher. I just wanted to be an artist (whatever that was.) I didn’t know anyone who was an artist. I thought they all lived in New York or Paris. I read about them in the Avalon Career Books from the school library. The only artist I knew was Mr. Davis, my art teacher. I didn’t get to take art until eleventh grade. Art was only for Juniors and Seniors.  Just before graduation from high school, the counselor told me “Your parents can’t afford to send you to art school. Why not use your scholarship to State College. You can major in Art.” I didn’t know it was a Teacher’s College. Just before graduation the college guidance counselor told me “if you don’t sign up for Student Teaching, you won’t graduate.”

I wanted to be a good teacher. I wanted to give each student a chance to know the joy of making art. But the challenges of teaching were so encompassing that I didn’t get to make any art myself. I went to the State Teachers Meeting and wrote an art curriculum guide for Missouri Public Schools. The next year when the position of “Head of the Art Department” opened, the job was given to a first year teacher. I asked the Principal why I was not considered for the position since I had been teaching for seven years and had seniority over the other two teachers in the system.  This was the answer he gave me (and the reason I resigned forever from the teaching profession:) “We had to give the position to a man. You are young and will probably get pregnant soon and we need someone we can rely on for this job.”

II am so thankful that he said that!  If I had become head of the Art Department,  I would probably be a retired teacher today, living and freezing all through the long winter,  and may have never become a Real Artist!

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