Finding My Way
This forty-year milestone in my life and career, along with the change of pace inherent to the current worldwide pandemic, has given a fresh impetus to do some sifting and sorting at home. I now have time to go into those places in my home and studio where things tend to accumulate: miscellaneous photos, letters, papers and knickknacks to go through on a rainy day.
I have been looking through stacks of old drawings and paintings; they are like a visual diary reminding me of my artistic journey. I am humbled at how timid and naive my early work is. Determination and discipline kept me going. The work shows my passion, my frustrations, and the struggle to find my way.
I was Jacob, wrestling with the angel. I kept saying, “No Lord, I am not the starving artist type; I’m not the bohemian type; I don’t fit the model for an artist.” But the angel kept coming back again and again; guiding me gently. The angel often came in the form of my father. He gave me courage. He came in my dreams. He sent me to France to The Marchutz School of Painting and Drawing. He allowed me to remain in France, encouraging me to learn to paint extravagantly and live modestly.
I not only struggled with the angel, but at times I felt I was in the desert, forty days and forty nights or however long it was. I remember being twenty-two years old, living in Aix, without a roadmap and just the ambition to become a full-time artist. I painted and sketched in the streets of Aix, in the market and in the countryside. I recall praying fervently as I walked everywhere every day, trying to find my way.
Those moments where so much was unknown – where the road was yet to be paved – felt confusing and lonely at times, yet challenging and absolutely exhilarating at others. Most of all, I am reminded of my blind faith that I’ve had all along. I have always believed that somehow what I was doing was right, and that if I just kept groping along the best I could, I would end up where I needed to be.
…trust yourself and your instincts; even if you go wrong in your judgement, the natural growth of your inner life will gradually, over time, lead you to other insights. Allow your verdicts their own quiet untroubled development which like all progress must come from deep within and cannot be forced or accelerated….to wait with deep humility and patience for the hour when a new clarity is delivered: that alone is to live as an artist, in the understanding and in one’s creative work.
– Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
Click here to read segment six of Jill’s “40 Years in France Series”.
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