A Million Acts of Kindness
March 4th marked four years since I lost my greatest life and art mentor, my godmother and art-mom Bobbie Crow, really the person responsible for my not living in a padded cell. Some of us are fortunate to be born into and cherished by families of origin. Some of us are fortunate to be swept into such families at some point after our arrival into this crazy and improbable thing called life.
Around the age of eight, I was fortunate to be swept into Bobbie’s world of kindness, dogs, cats, birds, a hamster, later a pig, ink, paper, pencils, acrylics, oils, canvas, boards (mostly ones discarded by others), silverpoint, gesso, ice cream, donoughts, fried pork chops, real butter, unconditional love, and her belief in my ability to make it as an artist that was so strong as to nearly be a forgone conclusion. Bobbie shared with the world her childlike wonder, wrapped in a deep wisdom that poured out of her in a million acts of kindness and generosity and an incredibly prolific body of expressionist painting, drawing, and sculpture. I learned so very much from her, yet every day I ponder questions that I wish I’d asked her while I had the chance.
Bobbie understood my love for stylized realism and of working small despite her gently yet persistently pushing me to open up and declare my love of spreading intense color on a larger scale. – Bobbie’s idea of small was 18” x 24”. Large scale would be her 30 foot long paintings that hung off the sides of buildings and bridges.
“Miss Vic, draw somethin’ real big!” she would say in her Southern drawl as she’d arc a 16” x 20” sheet of paper from behind to in front of me with great relish. Terrified and overwhelmed at the idea of “messing up” the blank expanse, I’d rebelliously draw something tiny in a corner. She would chuckle, tell me what she liked about what I’d done and never show disapproval or disappointment. She was the embodiment of encouragement itself, always ready to champion my efforts and defend me in the face of rude adults when I was overlooked or ignored for being young or small. She would take me with her to all manner of art classes and guild meetings and provide my materials or pay my kit fees so I could experience first hand things like intaglio printing or studying with a master Japanese watercolorist when I was ten. No one was allowed to say, “no kids.”
On a visit in 2016 I told her, “Guess what? I’m finally working real big!!!” referring to two commissioned projects on an architectural scale that I’d just begun. She was over the moon, not only at having succeeded in her mission but also that I told her it was her encouragement that made me believe I could pull them off. I often wonder what she would have thought of the works if she’d lived to see their completion.
I was steeped from age four in my mother’s pioneering educational practices that absolutely inform my own teaching, though Bobbie’s profound influence has been the lifelong driving force in my desire to share with and encourage others. Our work has always been so different yet Bobbie and I were artistically bonded together in our shared loves of vivid color, learning new things, animals, all things ancient Egyptian, and a devout belief that the more people who give into creating what they love, the better the world can be.
Only a very few spot remain in each class.
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