By Jeanne Roth
PRELUDE As a young girl in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, my dream was to be an artist. At the age of 12, while taking an art class at our local college, I was encouraged by the teacher, who, having witnessed my chalkboard scribbles, mentioned that she thought that I showed artistic promise. That was all that it took for the dream to expand to living in an attic in Paris, and painting in the company of other young artists. I conveniently left out the classic parts about freezing and starving.
REALITY After four years of high school art classes and four years of college art classes, a special teacher, aware that dreams don’t earn a living, suggested that I pursue a teaching career in art. So I did! Equipped with my teaching certificate, I got married and moved to St. Louis, where I was a stay-at-home mom to two lovely daughters, painting walls instead of canvasses.
DETOUR My husband’s job eventually landed us in Slidell, Louisiana. Our daughters were young teens at the time. The youngest was playing on a soccer team, and I began a conversation with a woman sitting next to me at practice. I learned that she was a high school art teacher, and she learned that I had my teaching degree but had yet to really teach. Teachers in Slidell at that time were required to find their own subs, and she asked if I’d be willing to be a substitute for her. I answered with a very tentative OK, not even sure that I wanted to teach but willing to give it a shot. Any sub who was able to follow a lesson plan and control a classroom was called often to teach. One day of teaching art led to calls from three other art teachers, the shop teacher, band teacher, gym teacher, English teachers, and special district teacher.
REVELATION I found out that I liked teaching and began thinking about getting my Louisiana certificate.
INTERVENTION We were in Louisiana for only 18 months when circumstances returned us to St. Louis. Upon enrolling our girls in high school, I decided to sign up as a sub. I was informed that the list was long and that I might not get called. Wrong! Two weeks later, I received a 6 a.m. call for a one-day assignment teaching art. This was in February. That one day turned into a long-term substitute teaching assignment that extended into June. September found me with a one-year contract that continued for the next 19 years. Understandably, while I really enjoyed my teaching career, I found little time to actually create art.
SURPRISE Midway through my teaching career, we bought a little vacation house on 17 acres overlooking Lake Norfork in Gamaliel. We had vacationed at various resorts in the area for many years and had grown to love it there. The “little” house was our getaway. Every time I had a three-day weekend, we’d hit the road for Arkansas. Both daughters were now married, and gifted us with two daughters each. The Little House (official name now) became our summer gathering place, but it was getting smaller and smaller as our family grew.
RETIREMENT My husband and I both retired in 2000. We had decided somewhere along the line to build a larger house on the property, and the Little House would be vacant except for overflow guests. School ended in June, our St. Louis home sold in three days, the Big House was ready, and we became permanent Arkansas residents.
FULFILLMENT Gradually, the Little House morphed into my art studio. Just a short walk from the Big House, it has become my creative getaway. I put the music on, pull out paints and brushes whenever the urge hits, and leave the mess whenever necessary. It’s no longer called the Little House. It has become Jeanne d’Art Studio thanks to a very supportive husband who built me a strong table, installed strips for hanging paintings, added lighting, and forever guides me through the intricacies of all technical endeavors.
ALTERATION Today, I’m living my dream, albeit altered and via a very circuitous route covering a lot of miles. I love finally having the time and space to create art. For me, creating art is a very compelling addiction. I love the challenges associated with creating something that’s uniquely mine. The magic is in the process. I have an idea. I spend time thinking about it. I build on past successes and failures, learning more with each creative endeavor. To paraphrase one of my former teachers, creating a painting that you’re really proud of requires at least 100 failures to learn from and build on. My advice to budding artists is to build on your failures, never give up, and success will follow. I no longer dream of Paris and have absolutely no desire to live in an attic. In the twilight of my years, looking out my window at Lake Norfork and our beautiful Ozark country, I’m grateful that my dream has come to fruition in Gamaliel. I can go to Paris any time in my mind. M! June/July 2016