I've been making art of some sort since I was very young. We lived in the north ( same latitude as Seward, Alaska, but colder) and so there wasn't much in the way of art instruction. My parents knew I was an artistic type long before I did. As we lived 40 miles from the nearest large town, Fort St. John, BC, my parents supplied me with how to draw books. I recall in particular, sitting at the dining room table while drawing pictures of moose (they were plentiful) and horses (we owned three). At the time, it was a stand off between my love for making art and my love for horses. Luckily for me I had a great Aunt who taught painting at the university level and she took me in hand while visiting, teaching me the basics of oils. I still think of some of her lessons to this day.
When in college and university I studied pottery and sculpture, on the side, but I think I was easily intimidated by the other students who seemed to have so much more of an art background then I did. So it wasn't until I hit my 30's that art entered into my life again. I was working at a job for a long time and eventually it just didn't feel that I was doing the "right" thing anymore. There was something missing. Then weaving was literally dropped at my feet and was just the perfect thing to keep my analytical and creative mind occupied in the evenings and weekends. Our marital home became a House of Yarn.
Eventually, as a result of migrating to the States, I was able to leave my day job and pursue a Master Weaving designation in Massachusetts, where we lived. At one point I thought it would help my weaving to be more versed in the use of color, so I took watercolor classes. Of course, then I got hooked on watercolor, while continuing to study weaving. Things evolving as they do, I very slowly dropped weaving and concentrated on painting, taking as much instruction as was possible. It just seemed a much faster way to get my color fix! By this time we had moved to Spokane, WA and I started working more and more as a professional artist, doing shows and the like. http://www.spokesman.com/photos/2006/jun/03/28583/
At the same time, I was volunteering at the local museum as an Art Docent taking groups of school children on tours of the art exhibits and teaching them about art. I found that this really fit for me and I loved talking about art. I had had a few people tell me at different classes I had taken, "you know, you should teach art", but it really didn't sink in that I may have a knack for it until working at the museum. After a while I left the museum to do more shows, but some time later they contacted me saying that Dale Chihuly's Foundation, Seniors Making Art was looking for professional artists to teach seniors art instruction in various mediums. That was an enormous gift to me! I traveled around our area teaching different groups of seniors at various settings. It also helped me to hone my teaching skills on a very kind and forgiving audience. I contracted with SMA for about 4 years and eventually they had to disband due to funding issues. I now continue teach art to seniors and other age groups on my own, while at the same time learning new ways to make art happen.
Just before SMA was closing, I started to draw Zentangles (www.zentangle.com) to deal with the loss of our dear Dad. I noticed that when making these tangles my shoulders would drop and I could breathe fully again after a long day of teaching. I kept getting nudged by a little voice inside saying "You should teach this", which eventually became a louder voice saying "You need to teach this!" So I took the plunge and became certified to teach in the fall of 2012. It has been a real joy to share this little art tool with people and witness the peace that develops in the class room.
While practicing and coming up with new Zentangle workshops for my students, I have also been learning how to make books from a practiced person of the art, Timothy Ely in Colfax http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Ely. It's a learning curve, but it encompasses so much of what I know already, painting, textiles, a bit of sewing, and I am still working on the glue thing, that may take a while to master, so stay tuned.
Though I continue to compete and participate in a few group shows, I have discovered that for me, the key to my happiness is to learn something new creatively and then to share it through teaching. This creates a wonderful flow in my life.
Thanks for reading.
Loretta West, CZT
Here's some links to further articles about me and Zentangle, Enjoy!