I painted my first picture at five years old in colored chalk on a blackboard hung on the wall opposite my bed. Ever so slightly more than fifty years later, I rediscovered the pure joy of smearing dry color across a surface.
I paint intuitively and quickly, so watercolor, pastel, and acrylic are my chosen media.
I offer my vision and whatever ability I have to translate energy into shape and color to the Divine.
I once went with a friend to hear the grand diva, Jessye Norman, sing at a venue so small that we could see the beads of sweat on her forehead without benefit of opera glasses. During intermission, my friend and I turned to ech other, awestruck at the Presence that still enveloped us. "What music she creates," I said. "I am barely aware of her - only the music."
"That's because when she sings, she is music," my friend said.
When I am creating with my wings unfurled, I know that I am art.
My best work - whether it's creating paintings, essays or meals - is intuitive. I approach a piece knowing that it already exists somewhere, and what I need to do is to allow it to appear.
Something flows through me and out my fingers for which I take only the credit for getting out of the way and knowing how to manage the media. In these moments, I am aware that I am in the altered state of consciousness I call Heaven.
I hear - and sometimes sing - beautiful melodies; my left hand (I am right-handed) sometimes flutters or waves with the energy of Faery. Sometimes I am aware of unseen observers and guides. Sometimes I receive direct, clear, verbal suggestions to use specific colors, to extend a line here or curve a line there.
The signature I use on my paintings came to me one winter night after artist friends chided me for not signing my name to my artwork. "You need to sign your work!" they chorused. I felt that my name interfered with the energy flow the painting expressed.
Later that night, as I stood outside on the porch waiting for my dog to return from his errand, I asked All That Is to send me a signature. Immediately I felt and obeyed an urge to lean forward and trace something with my finger in the snow. It was a symbol that felt powerful, grounded, soaring, and mine. And rather than interfering with my work, I feel it seals it the way "Amen" seals a prayer.
I was a good girl and still am. I colored inside the lines but was wise enough at six to realize, when Mrs. Cross, my first grade teacher, told me that autumn leaves really weren't the colors I had used, turquoise and pink, that she was missing an important piece of understanding.
I wanted to go to the Rhode Island School of Design but when my parents asked me, "But how are you going to make a living as an artist?" I had no answer and so pursued a more conventional path. I wasn't sorry ever, because nothing and no one ever tried to stop me from being an artist.
I have always admired full-time artists. I never dared. Instead, I earned my living working in the muggle world.
I loved being a caseworker in Harlem in the '60s. I'd wake up each day happy that I would be going to the party called work.
I was a terrible classroom teacher and lasted only one painful year. I had no idea how to create a structure that could contain and nourish my sixth graders. During one crystalline moment, I asked them why they were so unruly. One of them, courageous and articulate, said, "Mrs. Bowden, no one ever gave us so much freedom. We don't know what to do." What a gift.
I was the only actor in the small professional theater group to which I belonged who said, "Yes, I'd love to!" when a guy who was starting a talent agency came backstage one night and asked if any of us would like to do commercials. I became Queen of Upstate NY's voice-over talents for several years. I got my SAG/AFTRA card.
I enjoyed tutoring kids who couldn't go to school and put my job on the line for Kippy, who was at risk of being excluded from the graduation stage for fear that he would, as he had all through his school career, act out. I promised the superintendent of schools that he would not. Kippy came through and I learned that there is no better place to be than out on a limb telling the truth.
I found a lifelong family of friends when I met them as colleagues at the Schenectady Boys' Club.
I had a lot of fun writing and producing sound tracks for documentaries and commercials, and then felt very grown-up when I started my own strategic communication firm with a logo and stationery and everything. This was before websites. Yes, Virginia, there was a time before websites.
Thank goodness I learned about long-term care and long-term care insurance as Director of Public Awareness for the New York Partnership for Long-Term Care, just in time to buy a policy before it would cost an arm and a leg. And thank goodness again for learning about nursing homes by working in a good eldercare community -- Daughters of Sarah Senior Community -- just in time to be prepared to help my former husband when he needed to live in one.