Saturday, June 23, 2018

Fantasy Lives


A young woman standing on a dock painting at the Saugatuck Art School during the summer of 1946. Photo by Wallace Kirkland, LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Image

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As a kid growing up in Jamaica, I dreamed of being an artist. I always knew I'd move north to America, where my beloved and utterly cool Aunt Winnie lived. I visited her in New York with my family when I was five, and from that point on my future was set.

Color the girl in that LIFE magazine photo a shade of brown, add a few pounds and a fuzzy 'fro, and you have the exact picture I had of my future. I applied to college in New York City and started out as an art major, but then I ran into an English professor named Maire Kurrick, and a creative writing professor named Elizabeth Hardwick, and these women inspired and encouraged me, and soon I had switched my major to English with a concentration in creative writing, and my old fantasy dissolved into to a new one.

Though I dreamed of the purity of writing books, I went in the journalism, because I was the child of a civil servant, who had instilled in me, above all, to make a living, to earn my own income and make my own way. There was no security to be found in sitting alone in a room and writing in the hope that someone would like what I had written and publish it. No, one had to have a job, and a steady paycheck. And the only way I could think to do that in the field of writing was to pursue journalism.

And so I went to graduate school in journalism, and became a reporter for the recently relaunched LIFE magazine in the 'eighties. Working for LIFE had been a secondary dream of mine when I was a girl poring over the magazine's photo essays, a brand new form of journalism back then. I studied the names and styles of the magazine's celebrated roster of photographers, imagining what it might be like to drop into people's lives in far-flung places. I ended up working with some of those men and women, and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I suppose, in a way, that first foray into journalism was a perfect melding of the visual with the written word.

But now, here I am, a woman who sits alone in an apartment all day, writing books. Life has shown me again and again that the dreams we hold close are always in the process of being manifested. And now, I am beginning to dream again of returning to that first love, painting on canvasses, because while I do love and am grateful to make a living writing books, I am so often filled with agita at the need to please other people, while painting settles into my solitary soul as a feeling of comfort and peace.




19 comments:

  1. There is a feeling of tranquility when creating art and the process is very appealing and satisfying. If this is your dream, I say, "Bring out the canvas." Now is the time? Susan

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  2. Oh! How I love hearing this! Do it!

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  3. I see my avatar here today so I will try to post. I'm on my kindle ... I see your visual artist in every photo you take. Your sense of for and style is amazing. So is your writing. I do hope you put brush to canvas. I hope I get to see it
    Love
    Rebecca

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  4. That is a wonderful realization, especially after such a rich/active foray into journalism. From highly successful to a more satisfying gathering of your wits and talents and peace. Peace is what we are after now, a bit of color thrown on some canvas. yes, on the same page . I just checked into a painting class in the fall.

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  5. Go for it, dear Paddington. with gusto!

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  6. Looking forward to witnessing your lifelong dream of painting on canvas manifesting itself. Maybe your courageous heart which makes it possible for you to write so well goes hand in hand with your deepest soul that can experience the dynamic peace and comfort of painting.

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  7. Do it! I think it will bring you great joy.

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  8. Oh absolutely! I echo what Rebecca said!
    Xoxo
    Barbara

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  9. Yes! I would LOVE to see some of your painting! And even if you don't show us, you should do it, because I'm sure it will bring you happiness and peace to return to that part of yourself.

    I went into journalism for the same reason -- I loved to write, and being a reporter was the only way I could see to make a steady living at writing!

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  10. Yes! It's time. May all your dreams manifest. XXOO

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  11. I love this story so much. Yes, paint! I would love to see your work, the expression of you in colors and brush strokes. I also love the story of your career in journalism. Such an inspiring life you've had, my friend.

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  12. It is wonderful that you are now bringing this long-held, dormant dream into the light. Give it food and water and see what happens :)

    As I recall, your poppy painting was beautiful and you enjoyed the experience. Good signs, both.

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  13. I hope you do start painting soon.

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  14. I just popped over from Jenny O's blog.

    I love this post as it's a reminder that the older we get the more important it is to live out our dreams. I have a degree in art but stopped painting and drawing about 25 years ago. Stopped completely and haven't created any art since. Now I'm too scared to do it.

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  15. Can't wait to see what new things you will create.

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  16. This gives me so much hope. And joy, to think of you now, doing what you love.

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  17. I wrote you the longest comment ever yesterday and it was eaten. I have no energy to re-write it but came back today to say I relate ever so much (even in terms of majoring in art for 2 yearsand paint to your heart’s content!

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  18. I had no idea you had done all that! Amazing.

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  19. Hi. I've seen you so often on blogs i read so I'm here for a visit. by all means, paint. I've been a working artist all my life and made a similar choice. I chose commission work over making art and then trying to sell it and I have enjoyed doing what I do for over 40 years. but as much as I loved pleasing my clients with beautiful etched glass for their homes, eventually I needed something to please just myself and so I started doing work in an obscure glass casting technique which I try to sell. and I do, a few pieces a year. it's gratifying but not why I do it. it's the process, the creating that I love. so give that to yourself.

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