A few weekends ago, I gave a talk at Southwest Virginia Community College just before taking down my art display. You think college, you think college students, but there were alas only two that Sunday afternoon. But who could blame them. It was a gorgeous spring day in the Virginia mountains.
I was going to lead with a brief … what can a wrinkled old artist from Newport News teach you about the art you will be creating in the future … then taking back the word “wrinkled” in lieu of texture which is much more artistically valued. Everyone in my audience was wrinkled. Instead I was forced to finesse that opening a bit.
I almost broke out in a sweat.
I was thinking back to a time when I was doing my art without an iPhone camera for photos and no scanners for the art to be published. It was a time you were required to actually draw. There was no social media and Google to expand your files of ideas and reference material. I am not sure any current college-age student would even begin to appreciate the difficulties in reproducing art (which is what I did for 12 years as a newspaper illustrator). Wait. I am getting ahead of myself.
I was a commuter to college.
Campus was two buses each way. Since my immigrant parents did not think continuing education was a good thing for a girl who should get a job, bring home her paycheck and live at home, I managed to pay for college through scholarships. In my scholarship application, I wrote about being a first generation American and my life. Guess I pulled enough sympathy from those who did the selecting that I got my education taken care of. I also worked after classes to have pin money.
I majored in Psychology.
I was naive. I loved the course selection, but did not realize you can do nothing without obtaining a graduate degree. I got a job at Electric Boat in New London, Connecticut. I spent my time there organizing the library for the Human Factors section. It was books and papers.
About the jumper off the sixth floor?
I met a submarine doctor. We got married, and moved to Houston. There I worked at a charity hospital as a psychiatric social worker. Once again, I had no experience. I screened patients who had mental issues.
Lock your door there’s a guy with knife.
Did you hear about the jumper from the 6th floor?
Good news is he did not land on the folks waiting for the bus.
Very interesting place.
I also schlepped patients from the ER to the mental institution.
How do I know he is mentally ill?
Talk to him for 5 minutes.
He’s probably just an alcoholic (think not really dangerous).
Me, a 28 year old mom, with complete strangers in the backseat of our Chevy Malibu. Me, signing my name, affirming they needed to be committed. I almost breakout just thinking about it.
Then we moved to Duke and then to Virginia.
By now I’ve had 2 babies.
Everyone at that time was a stay at home mom, but I enrolled in William and Mary College for a Master’s Degree in Guidance and Counseling. It took 4 years.
The Feminist movement just beginning. I was active. I got fired from an internship at a local high school for encouraging girls to ask for a shop class. The girls came to me. But the principal and the department heads were very threatened.
All in all, my hard-earned degree did not matter since I took a part-time job as an illustrator for daily paper. Actually, it was more like the morning and evening paper with full-time work for part-time pay. But I loved it. Every story for the newsroom was a challenge.
Stay tuned for more in Part 2 next week.