Looking Backwards for Inspiration

So many times when we think of things that are inspiring, we have that feeling we need to be looking forward to something off in the future. Maybe we think we should re-examine our goals that we have set, or our “5 year Plan,” or just check in with our “to-do list.” All of those things are good and necessary to do so that we can stay focused. They all help to keep us on our path that we have laid out – reminders of where we want to go and what we want to be.

But, today, I want to talk about 
the value of “Looking Backwards.”

I started looking backwards after the first of the year. It has taken me on an amazing journey into my own history!

I began to work on my archives, as an artist. I was wondering just how many exhibitions I had done since I started my art career in 1976. That was the year when I first picked up the artist’s paint brush, and learned how to mix a “palette” and how to make a painting. Within the next three years, I had worked diligently at making art, painting.  In only three years, I began to exhibit my work in my local area when there were opportunities.

To my utter disbelief, I immediately began getting the paintings juried into exhibition, and I also began winning awards at nearly every show I entered.

It was not long until my work was juried into a prestigious art exhibition in New York City – the Audubon Art Exhibition! How exciting that was for me.

For the first time ever, I went by myself on a plane to NYC, and I attended the opening of  that show. There was my work – on view – and it felt so “normal” for me to be there and see that work. I can still remember exactly what painting it was. It was a picture of an old western Pennsylvania house that I saw often when I was out driving. It was located on a two lane road  on a hillside; trees surrounded it and cast soft blue/violet shadows on the white house. One day I had stopped to capture that scene with a photograph and then I had taken the photo into my studio to do the painting, “View from New Castle Road.” I still love that painting!

This special painting hangs in my home, and reminds me that I have accomplished something good in my past. It also is a marker that it was the beginning of my public career on a national level.

Once I started painting, I did it just about every day. The first few years I painted on the kitchen table after the children left for school. Sometimes, I had an easel set up in the dining room, and I painted there from objects I had set up for a still life.

Eventually, my art took me off in a new direction. I entered a fine arts program at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania.  I majored in painting, and I began doing tapestry weavings. My weavings were like paintings, in my mind.

After I received the BFA degree, I was honored to receive a scholarship and fellowship to go to West Virginia University, in Morgantown, WV. There, I work diligently on the MFA degree. I continued to paint, as that was my focus there, too. In addition to painting, I also discovered a piece of plywood one day, and that inspired me to try to make a woodcut print.

For my MFA Thesis exhibition, the large gallery was filled with immense paintings and large wood cut prints. I had created a world for the visitors to walk into – it was my world, created in my studio.

As the years went on, I continued to show my work everywhere I had an opportunity or invitation. One of my woodcut prints went to the Osaka Triennale in 1991, the year I graduated from WVU. Other woodcut prints were selected for the Ambassador’s residence in Paupau, New Guinea as part of the “Artists in Embassies” Program by the US Dept. of State.

Presently, I have been making art seriously for thirty-seven years. I decided it was time I “LOOKED BACKWARDS” to see where I have been and how I got to where I am today.

I found this job to be enormous. I had to sort through every program, newspaper and magazine article, and documentation I had gathered over the years. Fortunately, I am a highly organized person, and I had everything in order, chronologically. The job took me two months of intensive work though.

I found so much to be proud of along the way on this journey to the past, to my artistic beginnings. It encouraged me and gave me so much information about myself and the works I have created over the years. This was a very inspiring thing to do, and I finished it with renewed enthusiasm for my present work, and for the work that will still be created in my future.

Looking Backwards at my Art Works is so satisfying. It gives me a feeling of being where I am supposed to be – at this time. It gives me a better sense of where I came from, and pushes me forwards to think about where I am going in the future. These paintings from my PAST are my friends, like ANGELS looking over me, whispering to me,
           “Keep on going. 
                    You are not alone.
                           I am with you.” 

I was amazed to discover that I had been in over 300 exhibitions and had won over 100 awards in those exhibitions!

With this task brought up-to-date, I can now send off my records on CDs to the galleries and museums that have my work in their permanent collection. This is a good thing to do for your archives so that there will be records that will go with your art works for future scholars to investigate. I will be preparing the CDs soon, after I gather some photographs of myself and my art works and add them to the CDs too.

Next up on my horizon, now, is to begin the task of organizing all my poetry and writing and putting them all into order chronologically.
Once this is done, it will be an easy task to keep them updated periodically. All the hard work will be finished.

Sometimes we need to give ourselves a little pat on the back for a job well done! Looking Backwards can be the place to begin to realize just what you have accomplished in your creative life.  I was able to realize all the nuances and details of my creative journey by “Looking Backwards.”

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