Hello there. You may have heard something about me before (if it’s bad, it’s not true.) I am Melinda’s oldest kid and daughter, Renée. I want to give you the real scoop behind my Mom’s work. (Actually, we don’t have time for all of it in just one post, so I’ll be back for more later.) Really, this is just my take on what it’s like growing up with an Art Lady.
We’re outside on our bikes, my brother and I. We had our bulky 90’s helmets on, we are in the gravel driveway, and boy does that sound like a fun day for a kid. Hold up, not so fast. “No, lean the bike over a little more.” It’s my Mom, choreographing our every move as if falling off the bike onto the mean ground in slow motion. (Most Mom’s want their kids to stay ON the bike.)
My Mom had a freelance illustrating assignment for a story about some kids on bicycles. I think this particular version included somebody falling off their bike. (My brother and I had to take turns falling off, you know, to see who looked better sprawled on the ground looking miserable. It’s all about the art…) My brother and I were live reference material subjects for my Mom’s many assignments; we should have had an agent.
While my brother has inherited all of the real art talent, that doesn’t mean we both didn’t do plenty of art projects growing up. I remember learning to quill, drawing and painting outside. Instead of watching TV, as a kid I ran my own writing business and made copious amounts of clay figurines that are littered all over my family’s shelves collecting dust. Embarking on creative projects was a part of the culture I grew up in.
Years later was the “House of Cards” fiasco. (Which wasn’t really that bad, but it’s my job to pick on my parents. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you can read about it here.) My parents started their company, Rocking Chair Studio, right after I went off for my freshman year of college. Every time I came home, there were more boxes of merchandise piled around the house. It was always a shock to find that I still had a room to sleep in when I arrived home.
Then a couple years later, suddenly my parents owned a puzzle press (a huge, real-life actual puzzle press) and an off-site shop/storage/manufacturing joint. I found myself home from college on winter break the one year packaging a puzzle order with my parents into the dead of night to get it shipped before Christmas. For them, that was the norm.
I saw my parents start a business from scratch, from a dream they had; my Mom wanted to take control of her own designs and put them out there in a way that was in line with her goals. I saw the hours of hard work and struggle that went into that business. The cards and puzzles my parents created together are beautiful and unique.
But I also saw the times when it wasn’t all colorful butterflies flitting about and opossums swinging from trees.
There were months when my parents would be over at the shop from nearly sun up until the wee hours of the next morning. We didn’t have internet at home (my own personal nightmare) because my parents hardly spent any time there; they were at the shop working on the business, hustling their products and dreaming up new ones.
I will admit, every time I visit home now and I hear my Mom talking about the new greeting cards she is printing or some new puzzle making gadgets my Dad is eyeballing on Ebay, I have heart palpitations. The last time they went into business, it was an all-consuming endeavor. But, I am proud of them for daring to try, and they taught my brother and I that important life lesson.
Growing up, the art projects and photo shoots may have seemed like nothing more than just entertainment for us kids. Now that I am old, wise and all-knowing, (just like I always told my parents I was), I realize it was much more than entertainment. The natural instinct to create is a gift that was nurtured by my Mom, and is a gift that I carry with me today. (I also ended up in a creative career path, just a different branch of the arts.)
Sounds like we got far away from the Art Lady, huh? But the truth is, not really. I learned from a very young age not to be afraid of creativity and to embrace my own (sometimes bizarre) ideas. For me, creativity’s a habit; now as natural as breathing. Those who were taught to never color outside the lines find creativity about as comfortable as poking a great white shark.
In today’s society, risk-taking and thinking outside the box are necessary, yet neglected life skills, and creativity is at the heart of both of those skills. The truth is, the most successful people in the world are also some of the most creative.
This has been a little sappy (not my favorite style, but I had to work my way in gently), but next time, all bets are off. We’ll get into the real interesting stuff.
XOXO – Renée
P.S. I was definitely a better bike-crasher than my brother…