“Till we meet again”

12 June 2022

My dearest Rodney

Time is flying by, it’s already June. I can only imagine a life that is not constrained by space and time. I sure do miss you Rodney. Life is surely not the same on this earth since you passed into that next phase of your being. I don’t understand how all that works, but I know you are with me, yet at the same time, you are about Our Father’s business. I see pics of many diverse scenes and it brings back memories, all kinds. You are not forgotten my dear, far from it! I do something and I find myself thinking some times that You must be thinking I’ve gone crazy! But yet, I go ahead and do it anyway! It’s part of this chapter of my solo life. I’m adjusting Rod, slowly but surely I’m adjusting.

This past week, I took a week of vacation and drove to Cinques Terres, Italy and took a plein air painting class. It was definitely a mind expanding experience for me! You know Rod, you always used to say there are no coincidences in this life, and I have more and more evidence of this as I get older and have more life experiences. Like this painting class..it has connections to our life together back in the early 1990’s when we lived in Fort Wayne, and I took a painting class by a water color artist, Susan Blackwood ( https://www.susanblackwood.com) I didn’t know her at all, but we connected. I loved the pictures of her work. I even bought one of her works, a painting of a girl swinging on a tire!

I love the painting and the symbolism for me personally..most of my professional life has been with Michelin, a tire manufacturer..yet, it is me who controls where that tire goes and with what speed (with the limits of the Rope and the tree). In life, I have had several ropes, few trees. You were my tree..you are still my tree, firmly planted in my heart, mind and soul. The painting is beautiful..but the most important part for me was the note she wrote in pencil in the mat « go for it Sarah » with a drawing of little paint brush on the mat! Priceless!

As you know, I painted for a couple of years after that course, and then when we moved to France in 1997, I stopped..I can’t say why, other than life just got in the way and I didn’t feel the spark..my spark was dormant for 25+ years.

When you passed in 2018, a dear friend of ours, from the time we lived in Fort Wayne knew I had painted. She was also a widow and helped me so much when you were so sick, and after you died. She encouraged me to restart painting, and as a going away present coming to France in April 2019, she gave me a watercolor painting set. The kit stayed in a closet..until confinement of Covid 2020 and I decided to break out the kit..little by little I regained confidence and remembered techniques.

One day, I had the urge to look up Susan Blackwood I remembered from Fort Wayne. I was surprised and thrilled to see that she offered painting class holidays a bit all over the world..but mostly Europe. Due to Covid, everything was cancelled. She offered online classes, but I wasn’t comfortable at that time taking an online class. Eventually, I got comfortable with online classes and took some…but not enough!

I saw she had a course for Italy this year and I signed up! I noticed that it was a class for both water colors and oils..so I contacted her and we arranged a zoom call.! We talked about all kinds of things and reconnected. I asked her how it worked with the oils and water colors and she said I could do either, but..she recommended that I learn oils as a way to improve on water colors..so, I decided to follow her advice. I put my water color brushes away for a year and learn this new way of painting. Now admittedly, To learn a completely new medium in 4 months is a bit ambitious..in fact, I must be crazy! Even though life happened between the years, Susan is still encouraging me to « go for it « ! And so step by step I am continuing to “go for it”

I drove from France to cinque Terres, Italy to take this plein aire painting vacation/class with Susan and her husband Howard and 5 other women in Monterosso, Italy. The other 5 women in the class were very good water colorists, I’m the only one doing oils. Painting in oils, already takes a lot of energy and equipment..well, double that for plein aire! Getting everything packed up to go on location, then getting everything set up, then painting in this new gooey medium, then afterwards getting everything cleaned up before to pack up..what a job! I have to admit, I’m a little envious of the watercolorists! They are all very good and have much less supplies to move around!

The week in Cinque terres, Italy was a big stretch for me. Plein aire painting is difficult… searching for a place to set up that will have constant shade, doing value sketches to determine the best composition, then sketching the scene, then by the time I’m ready to actually paint, the lighting has completely changed. Wow, what an order! I am trying run before I know how to walk..and that is becoming more and more evident! I have much learning ahead of me!

I’ll tell a brief part of the experiences of my journey this week focusing on the one painting during the week that I fell in love with, a real labor of love. We were in Manarola, Italy and I had taken the stuff with me with every intention of painting (backpack, easel, stool, paints etc) and climbed a good size hill to get a good view of the village on the hillside of the craggy and wild sea coast. The view was excellent. However what kept talking to me was not the village or the sea crashing against the shore…it was a bronze statue looking out over the sea. It’s what I wanted to paint (never mind the fact that I have never drawn a full nude human figure, much less painted one! When I saw this statue it was a collection of shapes and values, not the form of a human (that’s already progress )

So I got set up beside one of my classmates, who also decided to paint (in water colors) the same statue. She is an award winning artist , and I’m honored to have gotten to know her as I am with all my classmates. We formed a special bond, we even sang together! I believe we will keep in touch!

I finished my sketch of the statue and I actually liked it, giving me courage to prod on. Then I decided I could start putting her on canvas..well, that’s when I really started to struggle. I was tired, hot, hungry and nothing seemed easy! Thankfully Susan helped measure some of the proportions again and slowly but surely the forms started to look like the statue..and by this time, all of the painting time was gone..and I was worn slap out! So I schlepped all the stuff back down the hill with only a sketch and a drawing to show for the day. My classmates had beautifully completed works…but I had to keep telling myself I learned so much.. at the same time, I felt a bit disheartened. But, true to form, I didn’t waiver..I’ve made a commitment, now I’m going to learn everything about this medium that I can!

The next day, After some more instruction and critiques of previous works, the afternoon was “free” to paint! No travel, no looking for shade and with the added benefit of Susan within shouting distance, we could just set up on the veranda of the hotel overlooking the sea and paint! I started to paint the statue . She “came to life” and I fell in love with the painting! Kind of like the story of the velveteen rabbit, she had become “real” and the fact that I drew her, albeit with a lot of help from Susan, I had drawn her and was now painting her. I still didn’t get her finished in Italy, and the next day I would be coming home to France, so I had to accept that she would be born in Italy mature in France. Substitute USA for Italy, and it’s a lot like me Rod!

So here is the painting. I named her “till we meet again”..she was looking over to the sea, pining for her love. We were never “sea people”, nor did I ever look like this figure, but I thought of us..and I do so look forward to that day when we meet again.

“Till we meet again”

The sketch of the figure I drew (no help)

The sketch of the statue at Manorola

The actual statue, this a photo of what I saw.

Looking back to Feb 2022, 4 months ago, when I made the switch to oils, I have to admit that when I look at the first painting, of “Mr Pear”, I’m astonished at the progress.. of course I want the results of 40 years of experience in the time of 4 months! But, life doesn’t work that was does it Rod? I remember you quoting a friend of ours who talked about sobriety..”it takes 4 years to get 4 years”! So true!

“Mr pear”, my first value study and first attempt to use the medium of oils back in a Feb 2022

I love you Rodney, I’ll always love you “till we meet again” you remain right behind my eyes.