Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

Welcome to my World---Woman, widow. senior citizen seeking to live out my days with a sense of whimsy as I search for inner peace and friendships. Jeez, that sounds like a profile on a dating app and I have zero interest in them, having lost my soul mate of 42 years. Life was good until it wasn't when my husband had a massive stroke and I spent the next 12 1/2 years as his caregiver. This blog has documented the pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties and finally, moving past it all. And now I’m ready for a new start, in a new location---a continuum care campus in West Michigan, U.S.A. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. Stick around, read a while. I'm sure we'll have things in common. Your comments are welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Painting Class, the Art Show and Coming Back from Heaven

Painting class is going to be more challenging that I thought but not in the way you might be imagining. On one hand just hearing the instructor talk about what the different brushes are used for got me excited about painting again but on the other hand, when she started telling us precisely how she wanted us to fold pieces of paper towel to wipe our brushes on I started getting the idea she’s going to teach in micro-controlling steps. “When I tell you to clean your brushes,” before changing colors, “this is how I want you to do it,” she said while blotting a brush with the folded paper towel in her hand. Okay, brushes are expensive so I get her point here. I must not beat the crap out of my brushes anymore while trying to clean them. No hard surface should ever touch the bristles in my brushes.

She’s been teaching classes since the ‘70s and when I asked where she taught---because I thought maybe I’d taken one of her classes---it came out that I "painted some back then" and that I've been away from art for a long time. She asked what style I painted in and I replied that I want to develop a new style from what I used years ago similar to the Impressionists, using short dabbing strokes and with less detail than in my past. “You won’t learn that in my class. I will teach you the proper way to make a paint stroke.” Maybe my memory is faulty---it's been 35 years ago since I've taken a serious art course---but I don’t recall an instructor ever saying one type of brush stroke is better or more “proper” than any other. Georges Seurat with his pointillism style would have been sent to the principal’s office for not staying within the lines, so to speak, in this class. 

Okay, I do get it. Again. She wants us all working on the same thing at the same time and we’ll start with the sky during the next class and working our way down from top to bottom. In my college classes we were taught to kind of paint all over the canvas, balancing out the values before getting down to refining the details in any one area and this class is more like advanced paint-by-number. I'm totally okay with that. I need to start some place on the long road back into getting obsessed again with painting.

She had us trace a drawing of a barn on a canvas and mine was too dark, she said. “You’ll have to erase your lines because you won’t be able to cover them with paint.” I didn’t think they were dark at all but then I'd just had eye surgery the day before so what did I know. I figured if we were using watercolors she would have had a valid point but we’re using oils. “I’ll just use thicker paint,” I said without thinking that I was being a cantankerous student who I wouldn't want to be teaching. "That won’t work," she replied. Vincent van Gogh and Jackson Pollock are lucky they were not students of this feisty, elf--- the top of her head lines up with my boobs. They may never have learned to use an impasto technique, laying on thick paint with a palette knife. I really can’t complain, though. The series of classes is only cost $15 with all supplies included and I’m learning (or relearning) useful things about our paints, brushes and canvases. The first three hour class was just an introduction to the supplies and her doing a demonstration. I needed that review.

But I will be challenged not only by her teaching method and my rusty skills but also by my classmates several who talked extensively about going to heaven and coming back and how everything will be revealed at death and there is nothing to fear. I once had an out-of-body experience when I was being rushed to the hospital with a high fever but all I saw while looking down on myself were snakes crawling everywhere. No white light for me to follow. Ohmygod, I really am going to hell, aren’t I! I did not share my experience with the class. I know when to keep my mouth shut.

We've had an art and crafts show on campus already---not from this class. It was organized by the girl in charge of the Enrichment Programs. She is one busy girl! I wasn't sure I wanted to put either one of the only two finished paintings I still have around in the show because I had no idea where I’d stand on the scale of talent on the campus. (I didn't want to be embarrassed, if I didn't measure up.) My dog Jason's portrait is artsy-fartsy better than an old house in other piece. The portrait was done in a true painter’s fashion while the old house was done more like a Bob Ross formula painting.

So instead of a painting I entered a quilt that I knew would wow anyone who sees it. (In the photo up above it wasn't married to a backing yet and I'm too lazy to take a new photo.) I ended helping the organizer set up the show because she had some easels that she didn't know how to work, and at the last minute I went back to my apartment, grabbed the house painting and put that in the show as well because it fit an easel still left.

We have a wide range of talented people living here---an accomplished metal sculptor, two wood workers, several knitters, a weaver, a tailor who made a to-die-for artsy-fartsy jacket, two photographers, five painters and four quilters. Even had an x-florist enter floral arrangements. The instructor of my class brought in a large and lovely winter landscape---nicely done, a real crowd pleaser. Oh and in case I might have left the impression that we get along like oil and water, that isn't true. She's got a sense of humor and we "get" each other. ©


43 comments:

  1. Jean, I think you're an accomplished artist, already, but those classes will be fun (maybe??). I want to hear more about the feisty elf. She sounds like a character, but people like her keep life interesting. Love your quilt top and paintings. It really is impressive that there are so many talented individuals living under your roof. It sure would be great if people good come together, do their art, and auction it off for a charitable cause. Hope you're still enjoying your new home. We're heading over to see our (almost) finished new kitchen today. We hope to move in sometime in the next few weeks. I'm a little nervous, but excited, too. Have a great weekend, Jean!

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    1. How exciting that you'll be moving in before Thanksgivings. You should be truly settled in my Christmas.

      Classes are always fun for me. It's an easy way to ease in get-to-know others when you share a common goal. We have a guy in class who is giving the Elf as much sass as I am and she's really good at giving it back. Plas I love the Pastor and the person sitting next to me is funny.

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  2. I laughed at your decision not to share your snake dream. You are a smart woman. The description of the brush-cleaning routine brought a smile, too. It's another of those differences between painting and varnishing. I haven't cleaned a brush in years. There are times I might, but I learned early to just keep my brushes in solvent and change the solvent when it gets heavy with varnish. Since I use the brushes nearly every day, it works.

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    1. Back in the olden days I used to do the same thing when I was painting with oils. When I downsized art supplies I gave up all the mediums but acrylics and prism pencils and they are easier to clean up after. I have a lot of brushes that I've worn out or abused so I'll adapt her method even though for many of my brushes it will be too late.

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  3. I love your Jason painting. The calm coloring emphasizes the textures of his fur and the textiles. When we moved to this small town fourteen years ago, we attended a Newcomers' Club. They turned out to be a bunch of people about our age who retired to this town about 2007. Among them, we had a dynamic elf of a woman, too, who was a community actor, politically involved (in the Tea Party, though, so not my left-leaning type), and threw wonderful holiday parties with casual meals, music around her grand piano, and laughter. She didn't approve of the way I dressed and was always buying me a geometrically-designed poncho or the then-popular leggings or something which I learned to accept graciously. A schism developed in the group when Trump came onto the political scene and us few leftie couples were squeezed out. She and her husband moved to Arizona, and I still miss her. I didn't mind her take-over ways because I felt comfortable enough with myself that I accepted what I wanted, turned down what I didn't, and laughed with fondness at some of her demands.

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    1. My "Elf" has the same dynamic personality as yours, I think. Your last line is true for me too... about feeling comfortable in my own skin that being "bossed" by a elf didn't bother me. And sassy back doesn't seem to bother her.

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  4. Wow. That teacher DOES sound challenging! I'm not a painter, but I'd be intimidated and never return. I took art classes in 3rd grade from a woman in the neighborhood who ran classes in her home for children. She was an art teacher and really knew her stuff -- but not how to encourage. I was struggling with the charcoal still life she had us draw, so she helped me by drawing the main piece and showing me how to shade and shadow. When I went back at it, I totally messed up what she had done. I was so afraid of her and mortified by my mistake, that I refused to ever go back...Which angered my mom so much, who had put out money they didn't have so I could take the classes, and in a fit of teaching me "consequences" of not following through, she didn't let me join Brownies that year. The worst day of the week was Brownie meeting day when all the little girls came to school in their brown Brownie uniforms; I felt so left out. And I've never been able to convince myself that I have a lick of artistic talent even though on occasion I've tried. Oh well....I was only a few credits short of an Art History major in college, so I appreciate others' art a lot! I chose the Sociology degree because I took Art History just for the love of it. Paint on, my friend! In any style you choose! I love the photos of your art in this post.

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    1. That's too bad you were scared off from art at such an early age. That never should have happened. Little kids should use art to express feelings with lines and color, not taught techniques like charcoal shading at an early age. At least that's what I learned in what few classes I had on teaching art. On the other hand, I see high school kids being taught stuff that was being taught in college back in my day so something as changed.

      My class is designed for beginners who've never painted before so I understand her micro-teaching technique but I got a kick out of the folding paper towel lesson. Did not expect that.

      Hard to break free from those (unjust) childhood 'lessons' our mothers taught, isn't it. But to loosely paraphrase Oprah, they did the best with what they knew back then and would have done better now if they could go back and undo the unintended damage. You with art, me with food issues and being labeled stupid.

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  5. Well, you are getting to meet a lot of people and that's terrific. The Arts & Crafts Show was a great idea. So nice to learn about other's hobbies and talents. Your quilt and paintings are really nice - you obviously know what you are doing!

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    1. The art show was a lot of fun. It brought back the thrill of doing them, of not knowing how your work will be accepted and then learning that you hade nothing to worry about. I met a lot of the quilters living here, most did not put anything in the show but will at the next one next summer. I'd like to try my hand at making wearable quilting. I few ladies had vests on that I loved.

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  6. I do so love your storytelling! Perhaps you’ll have two paintings going at once with a by her rules one for class and you own creative one at home.

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    1. Thank you. Since I moved here I'm struggling more with writing than I did before...not being clear enough so that my observations are being misunderstood as criticism when I don't mean them to be.

      I am looking for a subject matter to paint at home and hope to start something next week. If I accomplish that the class will have done what I wanted it to do...get me over the fear of starting over with my art. In the past when ever I let a lot of time go in between painting it takes me 3-4 months to get my rusty skills back in gear and I fear with aging it will be harder this time. I did take a semi-private lesson 2-3 years ago but the instructor wasn't worth what she charged so I only went twice then life got busy with downsizing and here I am.

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  7. Your painting class sounds like it's going to get on your very last nerve. I don't know that I could put up with such an uptight teacher nor fellow students talking endlessly. I do know I'm going to enjoy your future reports on how this class goes.

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    1. No she won't get on my last nerve, I don't have any left to get on. I'm mellowed out and she's feisty but not mean spirited. I'll admit is was an odd topic to get one for a first class but half the class already knew each other and are friends which explains a lot.

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  8. So glad you are getting back in the saddle. Your instructor seems she will help you with the getting of your toes wet once more. Just the getting familiar with the other artists is worth the price. Loved the textured look of Jason.

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    1. Ya, I'm happy I signed up for it. I am heading down to my storage unit this afternoon to pull out more of my painting supplies to start something at home and that wouldn't have happened without the class and the art show. By the way, the instructor loved my quilt and I was lucky that she left the show without finding out that I had a painting in it, too, which I love. LOL I'm there in a beginner's class for a reason and I want to be treated as such.

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  9. You are more talented than you think! So busy enjoying your talents now as well. This Phase II life you are building is so impressive to me.

    The dog painting is beautiful!

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    1. I like to be in top half of the entries talent-wise, not the bottom half. If I think I'll be in the latter group I wouldn't enter at all. And trust me, painting in a Bob Ross style is more a craft than a talent. It just takes a willingness to follow directions and patience. I would have taken the dog instead of the house over to the show at the last minute but the easel that was left wouldn't hold a framed piece of art.

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  10. I hope the classes are exciting and fun and you learn something

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    1. I used to be a class junkie before my husband's stroke so this class IS exciting on many levels.

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  11. I hope you meet someone in your class who becomes a chum. That's how I found my bestie when I moved to the coast. My experience with people in the arts has been that they're very generous with their knowledge. I don't think your house looks Bob Rossy at all. It has a charming primitive look to it that's very appealing.


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    1. The woman who sits next to me in class is fun and I'm seeing her in other places around campus now to stop and chat. I think we will become friends. Two others in class (including the pastor who is super nice) I've met in other places so slowly we're all getting to know each other beneath the surface.

      Maybe not Bob Ross but definitely not challenging with its simple one-sided view of the house and lack of prospective in the landscaping. I'll take the labels "primitive" or "charming." Thanks for that.

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  12. I love both your paintings, Jean! Your art class might be more suited to absolute beginners but I don't think there is any problem coming back to something with a beginner's mind. Take what's useful to you from this, and then go incorporate it into your way...at least, that's how I approach these types of things.

    Deb

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    1. That's exactly what I need at this point in time is a beginner's eye and mind. It will be fun.

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  13. That class sounds like a bargain for the blog fodder alone. šŸ˜ŠšŸ˜€ 

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  14. I'm thrilled you have found a class to take! And the price id definitely right. She does sound a bit anal but I don't know much about oil and maybe that is a very proper and correct way to clean the brush. I know I learn new mechanics like that all the time. And I'm glad you get on. But after looking at the two paintings you put in the show, I am stunned you are taking a class! Or taking it to learn -- your work is just fabulous. (And so is that quilt!). I love that they are sharing the accomplishments of residents. It's a good way to get to know each other. Now, if you can just cope with dealing with the self-righteous heavenly folk, it'll be fine. Meanwhile, you get content and copy. Probably good you didn't share the snake story. You might be shunned.... or saved.

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    1. I've read scientific research/theory on why people see bright lights in near-death experiences. Can't remember now why the brain does that but people who experience it aren't making it up and if they believe in an afterlife they incorporate that into trying to understand what happening to them. I would never label them self-rightous. My own father saw the Heavenly Gates just before he died and he hadn't been to church or opened a Bible since his was a young boy.

      I downsized oil paints out of my life before I moved because I didn't know how I'd get rid of the thinners and other flammable stuff while living in an apartment and I only kept my acrylics. Now I know that the little building where we take the classes will be available to anyone who wants to oil paint any day, class or no class. So I'm glad we didn't have to furnish our own paints because I wouldn't have signed up otherwise. The basic color mixing is the same and I really need the review of color. And I wanted to be around others creative types. I don't like people seeing my paintings in progress so I doubt after the class that I'll be using the painting room in the building. They are talking about setting up a woodshop. I might take that class. I just like taking classes.

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    2. With the texture of oil and acrylics, it seems like you could still do/learn the same techniques with acrylics so the lessons would be useful for the painting at home (and the clean-up a lot easier. It actually surprises me they are doing oil not acrylic just because of that!). I'd take any art class they offered!

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    3. I'm surprised at that too. The lady who teaches that class lives in the condo section so it's easier for her to get rid of the clean up rags and fluids. I gave my oils away when I moved here for that reason. The CCC bought beautiful sets of brushes for the class and real canvas, not canvas boards. I am relearning lots of things but there is one thing the instructor does that I just hate. She paints on your painting. She hasn't done it on mine yet but she'll sit at others and work for 10 or more minutes and says, "It's still your painting, I'm just moving the paint around." The others don't seem to mine that she makes significate changes on their paintings.

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    1. Thank you. It's the best one I've made and totally random.

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  16. It's nice they had that Art Show, Creative Souls getting together always has such a palpable Positive Energy. The Art Teacher... I dunno... sounds like the Art Teacher my Granddaughter has at her High School and doesn't allow much Artistic Freedom or doing Art in various ways. I don't think there is a Right or Wrong way to Create, the Essence of every Creation has the Artist infused in it, how can that be Wrong? I've never been a Color Within The Lines and Stay In The Box kinda person, so I guess I'd rebel if anyone presumed to force me to Create THEIR way. But, like you said, if you get anything at all out of the Class to get you on your way to immersing yourself in your own Creative Process, perhaps it will all turn out well and have been worth dealing with Miss Micro Manager.

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    1. The class was billed as being for beginners and it showed the picture of the barn we'd be painting. It didn't pretend to be something for serious artists or for letting out your artistic expression so I'm fine with "not being able to color outside the lines" in THIS class. If it was a college class I wouldn't be okay with it. I've forgotten a lot of the basics so I've already gotten my $15 worth out of the class.

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    2. To be sure that was such a Deal for that Class and so getting anything out of it was worth the minuscule investment and getting to meet some other Artistic Residents to Connect with.

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  17. Well if you hadn't been a painter this class would teach me, an unartistic person with no knowledge a lot from a beginners stand point. You know where to start and then move on and learn other styles and try other styles on your own you know? I think if you were in a class you knew nothing about it would not phase you to take all these instructions. But I think the instructor knows you can teach her a few things and that probably is something she feels and will stomp down or try to anyway.

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    1. It is a good class for a true beginner or for someone like me who just likes being in a class setting after years away from art. She's been painting and teaching continuously since the '70s so I sincerely don't believe either one of us in under the false illusion I could teach her anything.

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  18. I like your mode of taking it all in and discarding what you don't need. There's nothing to be gained from making a scene or an enemy just because of a painting class. And you're right--it sounds like a really good deal for what you paid.

    In the meantime you're also getting in there and mixing with some new people and finding potential buddies.

    Your quilt is lovely. I like its vibrant colours.

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  19. Thanks. Making a scene or adding drama to mine or other people's lives is just not who I am.

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  20. Sounds like you have plenty to keep you occupied.

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  21. Sounds like you're having some exciting times there! Can be interesting making new connections as you get to know people.

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