My paternal grandmother Merrie Pender Childrey Himmelheber was a woman well ahead of her time. She was an amazing artist who went to college to perfect her craft, graduating from George Washington University in 1930 (!) with a degree in Fine Arts.
She got married and raised 5 children. But she continued to sketch, draw and paint for nearly 70 years. She was a devout Baptist – a charter member of not one, but two churches. She never got her driver’s license; my grandfather drove her where she needed to go. When he passed away in 1983, she wasn’t a recluse – she started walking everywhere she needed to go if she wasn’t able to catch a ride.
She exercised every day well into her 80s, on a little trampoline she purchased. Also in her 80s, she took a trip to Europe with her church group. She painted many landscapes from the pictures she took while on that trip. Water colors ended up being her specialty. I have them everywhere in my house.
My grandmother passed away March 28, 2009. It was about 5 months after she had celebrated her 100th birthday with a big community party, surrounded by family, friends and a few (not-yet-disgraced) local political dignitaries.
I would like to think that I got an iota of her amazing artistic talent, manifesting itself through my cake, cupcake and cookie decorating.
Or maybe it’s through the decorative art I create for our house. Like the artwork in our family room:
Or fun projects for Halloween decorations:
Or artwork I make for the Christmas holidays:
This past Wednesday, my sister posted this photo to Facebook. It was a few of the sketches my grandmother had done while in college. My sister had just gotten them back from the framer.
It was interesting that she posted the photos that day because my new professional colleagues and I were attending a team building activity at a place called Brush N Blush. As a group, you select a painting, and then an artist walks your group through painting the picture. You drink a little wine, paint and have a good time exploring everyone’s talent. Or proclaimed lack thereof.
Many of us were very worried about this activity. I know my artistic talents are limited to baked goods and copying art projects I see on HGTV. Others felt they had no talent at all and were totally out of their comfort zone.
This is the painting our group did:
We all had a good time relaxing, painting and checking out each other’s progress. Up close, you see all that’s wrong with your painting. You can’t see the full vision, even though the instructor keeps encouraging you. Here’s my work halfway done:
The instructor heard all of us complaining about how we lacked talent, it looked nothing like the sample and was there a prize for worst interpretation. So for each of us (and there were 20+ in our group), she either picked the canvas up and walked a distance away, or forced us to get up and move away from the canvas. And an amazing thing happened….
Taking a step back and assessing the work from a distance gave us a greater appreciation for its beauty. We didn’t see all the imperfections and flaws; just how wonderfully everything came together for our own unique rendering.
At the end of the day, that’s pretty good advice for all of us. Take a step back — make sure you are seeing the whole picture — that you aren’t focusing just on the faults. And you will begin to appreciate the beauty of any situation.