Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Painting Family: Preserving our Heritage

My Daddy could draw. Everyone used to be amazed at his skill. He was deaf and tongue-tied and his unique talent was amazing to many folks. Since he couldn't speak very well he communicated by drawing. Sometimes I'd draw to communicate with him too since I couldn't get my point across otherwise. We communicated like this and through an expressive and animated "homemade" sign language. But he taught me perspective on buildings and how to make an object have mass and bulk by shading. We were extremely poor (note the too tight and too short dress I'm wearing in the photo below) and had no tv. We usually drew on paper sacks form the grocery store. Remember those? These days I would call that, "recycled, toned and textured paper"! :) Anyway- Great lessons! I was always happy when told that I got my artistic abilities from this sweet man....
The Castleberry Family in 1962:  Daddy (James Albert), Patsy, me and Momma (Willie Mae). Older brother Jerry not shown- was taking the photo.

My son Josh used to love for me to draw for him when he was small. I used to draw cartoon animals "with attitude" for him. Chickens with briefcases....blackbirds with striped ties and wire rimmed glasses. I have a video of him lying beside me on the floor critiquing me, saying, "That's not a Duck... that's a Sicken!" (That is a family mantra now for correcting me! )  I always assumed he'd be interested in art because he won the "Best Santa" in an art contest in first grade !
But my daughter Susan never said anything about art- nor was she particularly interested in it! Or maybe I just didn't look for it. When she was in high school she decided to pursue a career in Physical Therapy and researched the field and all papers and science courses took the course of prep for that field. She made top grades in college and was the last person in the state of Mississippi to be accepted into the PT program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center with only an Associates from a Community College!

So a few years ago she sent me an email with this image:
First Painting of a helmet © Susan Patton of Burce, MS

 She said she was going to put it into a raffle at her tiny (30-40 members, maybe.) Baptist Church to raise money for missions. I asked if it was a photo. She said no, she'd painted it with bottled acrylic paints and cheap brushes and canvas she'd picked up at Wal Mart!
 It started the silent auction and it sold for $20 at the tiny one -church raffle. She also did an Ole Miss football helmet and someone had asked her to paint a picture of their twins. She said she thought, "Why not give it a shot?" So she did this 16x20 commission for $20 too! She cringes when she sees it now, but this was amazing  for a person who had just decided to give art a try just to see if she could do it.
Twins © Susan Patton

Encouraged by her success, she decided to seek my advice and take some lessons. She is now a homeschool mom with young children and can approximately yearly take a 3 day workshop. She can barely make it to 2 days of a 3 day workshop that I host with outside artists. She also reads some about art. And looks at paintings. And talks to me about it. She longs to paint and loves it. But before taking lessons she did this painting she brought for me to see and I made her stop working on it and framed it and hung it in my foyer (where I jabbed a piece of gessoed Masonite into the hair part of the painting a month ago,  and cried all night about it. But I digress. That's another story.) Anyway here is the painting of her daughter-my first grandchild. It was the first "personal thing" she did:
Faith- ©Susan Patton
Since then she has raised her prices and taken a few select commissions and done many paintings as gifts. Here are a few of her pet portraits:
Untitled Painting ©Susan Patton
Untitled Painting ©Susan Patton

Untitled Painting ©Susan Patton

Lately she's pretty involved with family and traditions and the things that are part of her heritage and close to her heart. She also paints in oil and uses better materials. She did her brother and her grandfather and gave it to Josh for his birthday after they lost their grandfather last year. I think I've posted it on here before. She wrote a poem called "Close Enough"  that made everyone cry - it went along with the painting by saying something about walking "close enough that I can touch your hand." She worried with the proximity of the two figures of this while she was painting it, because she was composing the poem in her head as she painted....I saw it only once it was completed and I think it is her best work.
Close Enough  20x24, Oil ©Susan Patton

But below is a painting that she just got started- it's not finished- but she is doing a painting now about her children growing up as homeschoolers in a rural area where they still do old fashioned things like  grow a garden and "put up corn and peas" with her Uncle Dale who lives nearby. She has always been close to him and vice versa as he is a bachelor and she is like his daughter to him and her children are very close to him. He teaches this young generation- her two children the values that Susan herself cherish and that she wishes to preserve through her painting.
Untitled painting of family in the garden- © Susan Patton 

Susan Patton, PT is a part- time Physical Therapist with North Mississippi Medical Center Home Care and  wife of Jeff Patton who is a candidate for Superintendent of Education in Calhoun County. Her blog is Here Am Iand she welcomes your comments there. Her daughter Faith is a 4th grader entrepreneur who recently started her own jewelry business and has her own newsletter called "Nature Club." John Morgan is a tough second grader who loves to play "spy and detective games" and read books related to the subject. He leads the blessing at every meal anywhere and usually ends it with, "and, Lord, please help me not to be tempted to want to play video games so much....!"