My son found a copy of this article at his grandparent’s house the other day, so I thought it a good bit of fodder for another California story. Funny that I was able to find the original art for this one, as I seem to have way too many tablets and portfolios completely filled with such material. In fact, my son asked me what he was supposed to do with all my art when I finally die. I immediately said, just drop a few handfuls in my casket and let that be part of my ever after fuel when I am cremated. Yes, sometimes mothers and their children have the most unusual conversations…
Now back to this old “tulip” story…During the last couple months of the 90s and on through to April 2001 I did a series of articles and art for our local newspaper, The Tribune, in San Luis Obispo. Once a week, kind of like this blog, I would submit my work to an editor there and, poof, my art and words were published as if by magic. Of course for those “print” stories I had to wait to see them in the newspaper, unlike my current virtual “blog” world. And I actually got paid for them back then. “One California Girl” is more of a labor of love without any remuneration, and that’s just fine with me. No, I won’t quit my day job…but I still like pairing my art with stories as much today as I did back then. The difference for the newspaper stories and my current work is that those stories were written for children, or rather for the parents of children. They were meant to suggest things you could do with kids outside, like planting tulips in the fall to teach delayed gratification. Or going on a field trip to a nursery to look at all the plants and tools you might need for a garden. (When I was young I remember my mom and I going to look at shovels at the hardware store. She told me all she knew on the subject—and there really are a whole lot of different kind of shovels. As I said earlier, mothers and their children can have the most unusual conversations…) My “One California Girl” stories come from ideas I have with art I’ve already created. For my kids in the garden stories, the garden activity I had dreamed up came first with the art as visual support and inspiration came later. For some of those stories I actually wrote poetry to go along with it. And a very nice editor at “The Trib” seemed to love everything I did and that got published too.
It’s fun to look at the art I did of these bright red tulips. This story was written in November for a coming spring display in my garden. It’s spring again and it’s tulip time everywhere in my current neighborhood and at the Descanso Garden they are blooming like mad right now. But I got to thinking that a similar story about delayed gratification (for adults this time) would work right now, except you would plant early summer blooming bulbs and seeds like gladiolas, dahlias and any other cut flower you might fancy. But I haven’t ever had much luck planting dahlias—somehow to “fussy” for me I think. So, last weekend I planted 4 large barrels of gladiolas, and then I tucked in handfuls of hollyhock (a “pass along” gift from a friend’s garden that came by way of Aunt Ruth’s garden) and sunflower seeds in the dirt around each barrel. And I guess I’ll just have to wait for the little spiky green gladiola points and the tiny tips of flower seedlings to poke up from the dirt.
I love hollyhocks. My mom said that her mother planted them around their outhouse when she was a girl and they lived in Mariposa. I never could figure out if that was a pleasant memory for my mom, or if she just tried to imagine that her mom was trying to “make a silk purse from a sow’s ear.” They didn’t have running water inside the house when they first moved there. (I guess most other mothers put up wallpaper on the inside bathroom walls…) Mom used to also like to remind us kids that she always took a shower after PE when she went to Mariposa High School. I guess the PE teacher would use her as an example of what all the other girls should be doing after sweating in PE. Little did that teacher know, but since there was no hot running water at home, my mom was thrilled to have a proper shower instead of hauling water from the creek. Mom also said that this same PE teacher didn’t stop with her comments about her showering habits and would tug at the hair on my mother’s legs asking if she was wearing her “brush wool” socks again. I guess my grandma had told mom that only “bad” girls shaved their legs and under their arms—like the girls who also wore ankle bracelets. My mom said that she once tried to use sandpaper to scrape the hair from her legs. (Another crazy mother daughter conversation that’s gone through the generations now…)
I loved doing the stories for “The Trib” and it seemed like it would go on for years and years. I had lots to stories to share with parents of young children. In fact, the publisher himself assured me that with my art and stories he could me famous, but not rich. For some unknown reason it didn’t turn out that way and my last piece for “The Tribune” was published in April 2001. Actually, I didn’t do any writing for that one, but only a half dozen botanicals for a story about the SLO Botanical Garden in the El Chorro Regional Park off Highway 1. That turned out nice as the people fundraising for the garden framed the pieces I did and auctioned them off. I think they made some stationery from the pictures to sell in their gift shop as well. I remember I was pretty disappointed that the gig with “The Trib” had so suddenly dried up, but that didn’t stop the stories and the art. For several years after that I wrote/illustrated for a local SLO Parents magazine and soon after that I worked on a couple books, editing and writing, for Sunset Garden books. It was a very creative time for a single mother with a small son and I am happy to have so many wonderful memories of the time my son and I lived in Paso Robles, in SLO County.
So, now all of my publishing is done online, with only the art as the paper with pigment part. I didn’t realize when I was writing stories about tulips or getting kids out in the garden that I would ever do it again. Of course now I am not writing or painting for children or parents of children, I am the one sitting on bubble wrap with my pots of watercolors as I paint in the garden. And I am creating all of this for me—sharing my art and California memories. (I hope when my son reads this one he won’t worry about all the art I leave behind because at the rate I am going, I don’t see my stopping any time soon. Just filled up another watercolor tablet…sorry sweetie!)