I can write, but I can’t draw worth a lick. I’m serious; I’m not being modest; I can’t even draw a stick figure you can recognize as meant to be human; playing Hangman makes me nervous. If the cultural life of human beings had been dependent on me being able to paint a bison on a cave wall, we’d all still be living in the dark. (Or reality TV would have happened a few millennia sooner; I’m not sure which.) But apparently I’m destined to admire other visual artists from up close and personal. My bestie since seventh grade, Marcia Addison, can make something beautiful out of anything; right now she’s doing a lot of pottery, and it’s amazing. My roommate at Governor’s School for the Arts, Sophia, was a painter – I still remember her sitting up half the night working in the bathroom of our suite, the only room big enough to hold her massive goldenrod yellow and heliotrope purple canvas. The best friend I’ve made as an adult is a big time artist and painter, Isabel Samaras. I’ve prattled endlessly about her and her work here before, but just in case you missed it, check out her own blog here: http://isamaras.wordpress.com/ . And then there’s my husband, Justin Glanville, who, among other things, drew the gorgeous charcoal sketch above. (Drawn, incidentally, from a gorgeous photograph of the Rock of Cashel taken by Marcia Addison.)
I think one reason why I’m so drawn to visual artists is I feel like I can both understand them and be completely awestruck by them at the same time. The initial stages of their creative process are very similar to mine as a writer; they conceive something new out of the bits and pieces of their experience, and there are distinct steps they go through as they bring that idea into focus. But once the actual execution starts, once the image in their head starts emerging on the page or in the clay or from the fabric, as far as I’m concerned, it’s witchcraft. I’m sure Justin gets annoyed with me, though he’s too sweet to show it. I can stand just behind him and watch him work for hours, and I couldn’t be more impressed if he were turning base metal to gold.
Chelsea, the heroine of my most recent book, Strange as Angels, is an artist. Her late husband, Hank, was also a painter, and she has always lived happily in his shadow. Now that she’s lost him, she feels like she’s lost herself completely, including her own art. The book is a romance between Chelsea and her guardian angel, but it’s also the story of Chelsea finding her voice as a painter. I consulted with all these near and dear ones about matters of technique and market while I was writing, and with their help, I hope I got those mechanical details right. But more importantly, I hope I got the magic right. I love those guys, and I hope I did them justice.