In art school, they did their best to warn us about the pitfalls of being an artist. “Consider the impact on your family,” they would say. “Having an artist around the house is not easy— just think of Mrs. Manet or Mrs. Bonnard. Every time those poor women turned around they were being painted. Eating lunch, playing the piano, even taking a bath…it all ended up on canvas for the whole world to see.”
“If you really want to be an artist,” they told us, “make sure you marry someone who doesn’t mind long periods of sitting still. Find yourself a good artist’s model.”
I’ve been lucky in that regard. Not only did I marry a wonderful man, I got an excellent model in the bargain. Over the years of my design career, I have needed to illustrate a variety of historical scenes, including numerous depictions of Lewis and Clark, Native Americans, Oregon Trail pioneers, ranchers, farmers, sheep herders, Depression Era characters, Hudson’s Bay fur traders, Ice-Age mammoth hunters, and a slew of ordinary Joes. He’s modeled for all them, cheerfully enduring the most difficult and sometimes even undignified poses, all in the name of Art.
Not only that, he has enthusiastically supported every artistic endeavor I’ve dreamt up. He spent six years listening to me bang out beginner pieces on the piano when I decided to buy a piano and take lessons (never having touched a piano in my life). He always seemed glad to hear me play, no matter what it actually sounded like. If you’ve ever lived with a beginning music student you know…that’s true supportiveness.
And, when I decided to write a novel, he spent an entire year listening to me talk pretty much exclusively about the story and characters—endless hours helping me work out the plot twists and turns. For those long months, he essentially welcomed an entire troupe of fictional characters into our lives. At times, it must have seemed a bit crowded around our house, but he never once complained.
I am lucky, indeed.
So, on this Thanksgiving, I’d like to give special thanks to my favorite pioneer, explorer, mammoth hunter, and husband.
These are all modeled by the same person! I change the features, clothes and hair to match the characters I’m illustrating: