Goodbye to My Hero

My father’s last words to me were, “I don’t like this, Jill.”  He struggled so hard just to say that.  I held his hand and told him I couldn’t even imagine.  His last words to my children were, “I love you.”

Back in March I had plans to fly to West Virginia (via Pittsburgh) a week later to see my dad, knowing he did not have much time left.  But it seemed really urgent to get there so my family packed up the car, pulled the kids out of school and drove to Wheeling, pleading on the phone for my dad to “hold on, we were coming.”  He did hold on and we did get to see him one last time.  Hug him one last time.  He passed away about 36 hours after we left to go back home.  That ticket I purchased to visit my dad was used to fly up for his funeral.  It was so hard to say goodbye to my hero.

Thank you for believing in me dad, believing in my talent.  Thank you for not holding me back when I wanted to go to a high school exclusively for art.  Thank you for supporting my education to pursue a degree in fine arts.  Thank you for being the dreamer that you were and showing me that the American Dream is attainable.  For being the man who went from brick layer and steel worker in the Ohio Valley, to a high powered attorney who worked for the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland, Ohio and Hibernia National Bank in New Orleans, LA.  Thank you for showing me that when you dream big, anything is possible.  You gave us some pretty big shoes to fill dad, fortunately your only expectation of us was to create our own “shoes,” to carve our own paths of success.

I love you dad.

My Biggest Painting to Date

Usually, after I’ve been painting for an exhibition, I will complete the body of work, get it delivered, attend the reception, then I go through the, “post show blues.”  It seems to be a normal experience for artists, at least the ones I know.  So much energy goes into preparation and the event, kind of like a wedding, and then it’s over.  Well, recently I  completed a very large painting, the biggest painting I have painted in my career as an artist (so far) in fact.  This painting drew me in, pulled me back and forth, made me fall in love, and then I had to let her go.  She is on her way to Abu Dhabi to a new Westin Resort that is opening there.  My wall, once filled with a canvas about 8 feet tall by 11 feet wide, is back to being empty and it feels weird.  It’s not usually so tough for me to let a painting go like this.  I mean, I’ve been working professionally for 14 years now.  I’ve seen so many of my pieces fly away and never have become attached.  I love them all, don’t think I don’t, and it’s always a wonderful surprise to happen upon wherever they may be hanging, but I don’t usually don’t remain so emotionally tied to them when they go.  This one was different.  I don’t know if it was the physical size that commanded, the level of growth that occurred, or maybe both of those and other factors that made me lament watching her sail off to her new destination, but she’s gone and I miss her.  This is a good thing though.  I hope she has this impact on others.  I hope that when people in Abu Dhabi look at her, they will experience the mystery of life and light that I see reflected on the water.  I hope they too will lament at having to pull their eyes away, leaving only a reflection of the image on their memory.

Echo (un-numbered)
Oil on canvas
Oh, and if you have a little more time, there is a wonderful article in the November issue of Country Roads Magazine about me.  Here’s a link to that article,

A Summer of Commissions

I can’t believe that the summer just flew by as fast as it did.  The kids have been back in school for over a month and I’ve been working hard to get my routine down.  I was standing in line this morning at Garden District Coffee and, with a big grin on my face, blurted out to the the lady next to me that, “I just love Monday!”  Okay, that makes me sound weird, but, well, I do love Monday.  I love my routine.  I love that Monday means my quiet/coffee time at the coffee shop.  I love that my “office” is at a corner table next to the outlet.  Doing my “administrative stuff” ie answering emails, ordering supplies, etc… is much easier for me to do there than at home.  When I’m home I’m driven to work in the studio, of course 🙂

When we were buying a house down here in Baton Rouge, both my husband and I realized that I couldn’t afford any down time in painting.  I had several commissions on the front burner and more paintings to create after that.  Building a space was not an option and, after years of renting studio space, I was really wanting to put my income back into our pockets instead of a landlord’s.  The perfect house presented itself to us via For Sale By Owner.  I fell in love with it’s antiquity, it’s quirkiness, it’s potential, and it’s glorious extra room built on the back of the house.  A room that, if it did not have carpet, could be an excellent basketball court.  It has great natural light and a ceiling at least 20 feet tall.  We put in a bid on the house before I had ever seen it in person.  I knew it was right and my gut was correct.

So I hit the ground in Baton Rouge running.  I have completed three commissions since we moved here and am working on a fourth.  The current piece I am working on is the largest painting I have created to date.  It measures approximately 7 feet tall by 10 feet wide.  I knew, of course, that I would be able to do this, but I wasn’t sure how.  Well, I’ve never created a painting using 4 inch brushes, but this one makes them look like small instruments.  I just can’t even imagine Michelangelo up there painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  One person painted that!!!  It took him four years.  Amazing.


Here are images of the two commissions I completed which will be hanging in the Ritz Carlton in Naples, Florida.
This commissioned painting of Limes will be settling in a Houston, TX home.
I am always honored and humbled that people put their faith and trust in me to complete a painting for them.  I am lucky to have these opportunities and certainly never take them for granted.

My Tropical Paradise or Rain Rain Rain

It’s been a while since I have last posted.  In the interim my husband and I, along with our boys have moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana as my husband has accepted the job of Tax Professor at the LSU School of Law.  After the first week that we moved here it has been a constant deluge of rain every single day, and I do mean every.  I don’t mind the rain so much as it really helps to keep the heat lower here.  I remember sweltering heat growing up in New Orleans, and it hasn’t really been so oppressive this summer in the Capitol City.  Okay, so we bought this amazing house in the Garden District.  I love it, it is so weird and quirky and kind of funky too.  Back in the Nineteen “teens” (I know this house was built before 1920) our house was the first house built in Drehr Place subdivision.  Subsequently, in the 1980’s, it’s owner at the time moved the house over about three lots, turned it to face a different street, raised it up a story and added a 1st floor, enclosed the original porch (now upstairs) to create a fabulous kitchen with a Professional Viking stove with double oven, and added this HUGE 750 sq ft room with, at least 20 ft. cathedral ceiling onto the back of the house.  Of course I claimed the big big room for my studio (my studio of my dreams)!!!!  After all of this, the house was left with a walkway sized space of a yard on the back, less to mow!  I love my house, with added stairways, rooms closets, attic and studio, it’s also a great house for hide and seek.  Fun 🙂

So, about my delay in posting, I had kind of a personal dilemma that made me question all of this.  What was that dilemma, it was my mother, well, I’d like to blame it on my mother, but really it’s just how I reacted to my mother’s need for extreme privacy.  It was around last November when my mom called me and a conversation regarding my blog ensued.  She told me that she had read it.  I was never expecting her to take the time to do something like that, but there it was.  She was upset, upset that I had shared my feelings and emotions and my life experiences.  This was always a scary thing for my mom. Pain, emotional or physical from me or my sisters, seemed to threaten her being, upset the fragile equilibrium of her psyche.  I never liked putting her in a place of unhappiness or anger, it was like walking a tightrope.  My blog had unnerved her a bit and she felt exposed.

Being a mom myself now, I know that it’s not an easy job.  Every day I am met with the task of balancing my needs with the needs of my kids and husband, just as it is for all people who find themselves the caretakers and/or partners of others.  It’s a huge responsibility that has great impact.  My mom and dad really did the best they could, I know they did.  It’s hard to understand my mom’s childhood as she really doesn’t talk about it much.  What I have gleaned about it, I have learned from her sister, my aunt.  My mom doesn’t discuss her life, especially anything unpleasant.  If things ever seeped out, it was generally with a bitterness and anger, generally toward her sister.  All I really know is that she was a good girl and did what she was told.  So, growing up I learned if life was kicking me in the teeth, I was to keep my mouth shut and don’t talk about it, especially to mom.  Basically I learned to accept that “life was great” and if anything bad happened to me, it was probably my fault.  I remember when I was riding my bike one day and was hit by a car.  With a fractured skull and a bruised brain, I had lost much of the function on the right side of my body, especially my right arm.  I did not have the strength to hold a door knob and turn it.  Nor could I hold a pencil to write a sentence.  I had received a lot of “get well soon” gifts for which my mom wanted me to write “thank you” notes.  I tried, I really did, but when I told my mom I couldn’t hold the pencil, she just got mad and told me I was “faking it”.  Wow, was that confusing to a 12 year old.  I did my best to just not talk about how difficult things were.  Plus, the injury also seemed to scramble my speech and writing.  I would say words that didn’t make sense and when I would handwrite (even to this day) I scrambled the letters in words or just leave them out.  Fortunately the speech repaired, but as far as writing goes, it’s still frustrating.  At least I don’t seem to have this issue when I type.  Thank you keyboard 🙂

Well anyway, my mom began to question me about what I was sharing on my blog.  She kind of got upset.  I could feel that it was really coming from a place of vulnerability in her.  She felt exposed and that was scary for her.  She liked to keep her life under lock and key.  It was really tough for me, living like that, and years ago I decided that it was not a healthy or natural way for me to live.  I did not want to keep my life, issues and all, a secret.  We all have issues and difficulties.  We have all been raised by people with issues and difficulties.  I love my mom and truly respect her.  She is not a bad person and I know she loves me and my sisters fiercely.  She would do anything within her means to help us, in the best way that she can.  I don’t really know what happened in her life to make physical or emotional pain such a difficult thing for her to cope with, why these things seem to scare her so much that her reaction is always one of anger and denial.  I think it can only be that she never wanted us to be in pain and maybe the mirror of the pain in our faces was too much for her to bear.  My sisters and I were told to “buck up kid” when we were young.  Something tells me the apple didn’t fall far from the tree and maybe her dad was a lot like that too.  I don’t really know much about my grandmother, as she died when I was two, but I do remember my grandfather and what an emotional and overbearing man he could be.  He could also be the most loving, caring, and funny grandpa in the universe.

Mom, part of me hopes you don’t read this post, but another part of me hopes you do.  I love you mom and I recognize I wouldn’t be the amazing person I am today without the life experiences that have built me.  Thank you for loving me the best way you could and thank you for respecting me for the person I am today, even though I know sometimes you don’t “get” me and other times you worry what I’m about to say.  There it is, I’ve opened another Pandora’s Box.  I’ll be waiting to hear from you mom 🙂

Limes 48 x 20

Here is another painting I recently finished.  I am so in love with the reflections of the shadows of the branches.

Limes 48″x20″
at Melissa Morgan Fine Art in Palm Desert, CA