|Some insights into the thinking of
Edna Wagner Piersol (Windes)
Art always seems to have been instinctively a part of my life. One of my early memories about art is using up all the yellow paint in my little paint box and being stuck with the blue. This happened more than once until my parents got tired of buying new paint boxes every time I ran out of yellow, and then I had to learn to use other colors. That was probably when I was about three years old, and it is not my earliest art memory since I am one of those people who can remember being a baby in a cradle. I know I couldn't walk or talk when I was sitting happily playing with clay, making a little mouse out of it, when my mother got so excited I thought I had done something wrong. Finally, she exclaimed that it was wonderful and so I relaxed, but I didn't know what had impressed her so much. Didn't everyone make a clay mouse when they wanted one?
Since I am on Memory Lane, my finest art memory is the one of when I finally made it into a juried PROFESSIONAL art exhibit. No other honor ever came close to that, including winning (some years earlier) my first national award while a senior in high school. No awards or acceptances before or after equaled that feeling of being now, a professional. Uninformed as I was then, my foolish inexperienced assumption was that after the first acceptance all the following exhibits would probably include me. Ha! How wrong can one be? But even so, that first wonderful realization that I WAS a certified professional artist has never been surpassed.
Teaching painting is another one of my art loves, just a tad short of creating art. I find my biggest problem in teaching painting is pulling the artist out of the person. Almost all of us can be an artist if we want to be and, UNLESS we doubt that, we will succeed. "Want to be," and, "doubt," are very important words here. The big thing to realize is that each of us must do it our way, not try to imitate. So many times my students, who could be fabulous artists, simply will not believe me when I tell them their painting is good. I wish every would-be-artist had been blessed with grandparents like mine, and a father like mine who knew what to say when I was upset in grade school by a "teacher" who would not let me paint a tree trunk green. She said I had to paint it black. My father simply told me that everyone did not see things the way I did and that of course an artist could paint a tree trunk green if that is the way the artist saw it, but not for that teacher. She only felt comfortable with black tree trunks so I should paint them black for her, and save the real art making for myself when I was at home. What that taught me about life in general and how to be a good student was priceless. I still think of his words almost daily.
Those words have served me well, through painting in water media, writing how-to-paint books, winning awards, and being rejected from shows. They taught me not to doubt myself and even served me well in the most challenging episodes in my art career. One of those was cataloging the Pittsburgh National Bank Art Collection of 3700 pieces (the first cataloging of that 20 year collection), another challenge was choosing, then being the chairman of a three member Jury Committee for the U.S.Air Force International Art Exhibit, 3000 slides cut to 100 awards. Later, as president of the nearly 700 member Southern Watercolor Society, encompassing the eighteen southern states and DC, and after founding several art groups and exhibits and jurying many shows, no matter how inadequate to the task I may feel, I still am nourished by that early instilled faith in myself. I don't think it is ever too late to get this faith.
I say constantly to students, "Today, wake up and be yourself and proud of it. Paint your tree trunks green (or red) any time you like."