Happy Thanksgiving!

 

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:

Meriwether Lewis and his dog Seaman examining sagebrush. Lewis was an excellent naturalist and cataloged many plants that the explorers had never seen before. This illustration was part of my Hat Rock project.

 

Captain Clark writing in his journal. I did this illustration as part of a large project at Three Forks, Montana.

A Hudson’s Bay fur trader in Oregon.

Another fur trader!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meriwether Lewis again. This was part of my Lewis and Clark project.

 

Lewis giving medical attention to a sick man on their expedition. Both figures were modeled by the same person. Also for Lewis and Clark project.

A snippet from an illustration showing a scene of Depression Era hobos. The man on the left was modeled by my husband, the other by my father! From my Hiawatha project.

 

A Basque sheep herder from my Hells Canyon project.

Ice Age mammoth hunters. This is from a project I did long ago in Arizona. This illustration has gone missing from my files, and I had to search this out on the internet! But all those hunters are either my husband, or my brother!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The real guy! (and me)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 thoughts on “Happy Thanksgiving!

  1. Your art is beautiful and you two are beautiful!
    We are grateful every day, not just Thanksgiving, that you are our “kids”.
    Mom and Dad

  2. Your paintings are beautiful. Wow, you’re a very multi-talented woman, from piano and writing to painting. I’m impressed.
    My mother is a painter and I was her model for so many years. I hated it as a kid, even though she’d ask for only 10 or 15 minutes of sitting perfectly still. It seemed like an eternity. She even used me as the model for a children’s book that was never published, though she completed all the illustrations. It’s fun now to look back and see all these paintings of myself. (If you’re at all interested, her website is http://www.ejohnsonart.com)
    Just think how you’re preserving the various stages of your marriage on canvas. That’s so neat.

    • Thanks, Katherine! I’m not sure my piano adventures count as talent…but I’ll take the compliment! Your mother’s work is gorgeous! What a nice place to live and work as a landscape painter. I’m sure you will treasure all the paintings she did of you…will make those long, painful sits seem worthwhile!

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