June 14, 2009

That faint artistic thread...

As I've slowly, gradually backtracked through my family history a little, I've come to see a number of artistic abilities in my relatives. This became one of the first commonalities that told me I shared some kind of values with someone else: the artistic urge.

That lousy lost feeling, growing up...

When I was in my tweens (like, 11, 12, or 13), I didn't know much about my family history. Perhaps this is the same for many kids from a dysfunctional family background: the sense of not belonging, the detachment from family, or sense of "being different". On the other hand, maybe that was just what was going on for me... As a kid, a sense of belonging felt important, and it never seemed to materialize in my life to that point. I always felt like a bit of an outsider to the world around me, like I didn't fit in, or was not fully integrated. I wasn't part of it - just watching it.

I saw lots of disparate pieces of life, but could not draw them together into any sort of cohesive whole relationship; there was no overall structure or system that bound life together for me. Stuff just happened, and it was hard to make sense of it all.

I also had no religion, nor any real spirituality. I didn't (and still don't really) believe in god, and saw many organized groups as havens where misled suckers consoled and supported each other. As I have grown older, and learned more about religion and spirituality, I've developed a healthy respect for religious belief and a healthy skepticism of much of organized religion. (I have great respect for another's right to believe whatever they wish, so long as they harm nobody else while doing it.)

I liked rationalism and science a lot. Practical, scientific inquiry always made some sense to me, and nature continues to awe and impress me. I'd never seen a club for atheists (why would people who don't believe in something need to come together in common cause?), and science and rationalism were everywhere I looked for them. Affiliations seemed useless.

The closest thing that ever approached a sense of the mysterious or spiritual for me was the peace that I experienced when drawing, or when absorbing myself in some literature, including pulp fiction and comic books. Something fascinating and special happened whenever I drew, coloured or looked at art that I liked: a feeling of calm, and happiness, a sense of peace. That's as close to a spiritual mystery as I have ever gotten then and since.

In the family...?

I had always known there was a little artistic flair in my Mother's family. My mother, Angela Huntley Clarke, was a talented amateur singer and pianist, and had acted in amateur theatre productions with the Victoria Gilbert and Sullivan Society in the '50s. Something in her loved music and expressing herself.

My Mum's father, Ernest Huntley Clarke was a prolific amateur photographer, documenting his life, his wife and his only daughter with hundreds of stills and moving images over the course of 40 or 50 years. "Poppy" (as my sister and I called our maternal grandfather) was also a dabbler in oil painting, and we had a few little landscapes he'd done in his later years, in his cramped little basement studio. I still have Poppy's old Walter Foster art instruction books in my bookshelf.

My mother's cousin, Shirley Nash (nee Marks) has always been a passionate oil painter in traditional still life and landscapes, and taught and encouraged painting privately for many years, in her community in Apple Valley, California.

As for my Dad, James Evan Love, although I never saw him play an instrument, apparently he could read music a bit, and could carry a tune. My Dad's brother's wife, Palma Love (nee Lovstad) was an incredibly skilled self-taught painter, who made many oil studies of local boats, and harbour and river scenes (including water traffic along the historic Skeena River) for many, many years, from her home up in Prince Rupert, BC.

To refer to my eldest sister Maggie as "quite musical", would be an understatement. Maggie has taught music to elementary school kids for years, and in her previous career, picked up a couple of Junos. Her partner, Bill Usher, has four of his own, and according to my brother Dave, this collection, sitting in their livingroom floor, is affectionately referred to as "The Clutter".

Maggie's eldest, Michael, is a musician as well, and has recently worked as an actor. My sister Kim, writes poems for herself and for friends.

For my own part, I feel very fortunate to have been able to develop a love of doodling and colouring into a professional career that has expanded on those basic impulses in shape and colour, and has projected them into modern media, in pursuits like web or graphic design. On a more personal front, fiction and storytelling has become my favourite art form in recent years.

So, there is this tendency, this artistic thread in my family, this need to create and express in some tangible way, whether it is for entertainment or as part of a profession, or whether it's for pure personal, emotional, or spiritual completion.

In that way, I think that I feel more connected than ever to my family, and to a lesser degree, somwhow connected to a long line of artists and designers going back through history, who, I expect, also probably had their own personal creative and spiritual revelations by making art.

Mountain Chickadee, from Owe Nothing
My novel, "Owe Nothing", is now available for purchase at Trafford.com:

Related Links:

Fiction by E. John Love: http://fiction.ejohnlove.com

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