Q: What about the importance of vision in your training in the Navy has helped you be able to see what you want to create in your art? (Question from “Arte Realizzata”)
A: I continue to reflect on what my experiences as a Naval officer contributed to my present career. Certainly, I learned attention to detail, time management, organization, and discipline, which have all served me well. I keep regular studio hours (currently 10:00 – 4:00 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday) which I understand is rare among artists.
Prior to joining the Navy, I had financed my own flight training to become a commercial pilot and Boeing-727 Flight Engineer. However, my Naval career consisted entirely of monotonous paper-work jobs that were not the least bit intellectually challenging. Finding myself stuck in jobs that reflected neither my skills nor my interests, I made a major life change. When I left active duty at the Pentagon I resolved, “I have just resigned from the most boring job. I am going to do my best to never make BORING art!” Other than this, I an hard-pressed to pinpoint anything the Navy contributed to my art career.
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Posted in 2021, An Artist's Life
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Q: Who are you and what do you do? (Question from “Arts Illustrated”)
A: Here is my professional bio.
I am an American contemporary artist and author who divides my time between residences in New York City and Alexandria, VA. I am best known for my pastel-on-sandpaper paintings, my eBook, “From Pilot to Painter,” and this blog, which now has over 70,000 subscribers!
Friends say that I have led an extraordinary, inspiring life. I learned to fly at the age of 25 and became a commercial pilot and Boeing-727 flight engineer before joining the Navy. As a Naval officer I spent many years working at the Pentagon and retired as a Commander.
On 9/11 my husband, Dr. Bryan C. Jack, was tragically killed on the plane that hit the Pentagon.
I use my large collection of Mexican and Guatemalan folk art – masks, carved wooden animals, papier mâché figures, and toys – to create one-of-a-kind pastel-on-sandpaper paintings that combine reality and fantasy and depict personal narratives. In 2017 I traveled to Bolivia where I became inspired to paint Bolivian Carnival masks.
My pastel paintings are bold, vibrant, and extremely unusual. Perhaps my business card says it all: “Revolutionizing Pastel as Fine Art!”
I exhibit nationally and internationally and have won many accolades during my 30+ years as a professional artist. For additional info, please see the links in the sidebar.
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Posted in 2021, An Artist's Life
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Q; What was the spark that got you started? (Question from Barbara Smith via Facebook)
A: If I had to select one factor, I would say, profound unhappiness with my professional life. In 1986 I was a 33-year-old Navy Lieutenant working as a computer analyst at the Pentagon. I hated my job, was utterly miserable, and moreover, I was trapped because unlike many jobs, it’s not possible to resign a Naval commission with two weeks notice.
My bachelor’s degree had been in psychology. When I was in my 20s and before I joined the Navy, I had spent two years and my own money training to become a licensed commercial pilot and Boeing-727 Flight Engineer. I had planned to become an airline pilot, but due to bad timing (airlines were not hiring pilots when I was looking for a job), that did not come to pass.
So there I was with absolutely no interest, nor any training in computers, working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and completely bored. I knew I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere and resolved to make a significant change. Searching around, I discovered a local art school, the Art League School in Alexandria, VA, and began taking drawing classes.
One drawing class lead to more. Within a couple of years, due to being highly motivated to change my life, my technical skills rapidly improved. Even then, I believe, it was obvious to anyone who knew me that I had found my calling. I resigned my active duty Naval commission and have been a fulltime professional artist since October 1989. (Note: For fourteen more years I remained in the Naval Reserve working, mostly at the Pentagon, one weekend a month and two weeks each year, and retired as a Navy Commander in 2003).
Life as a self-employed professional artist is endlessly varied, fulfilling, and interesting. I have never once regretted my decision to pursue art fulltime!
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Posted in Alexandria (VA), An Artist's Life, VA
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Q: Why do people need art in their daily lives?
A: That is for each person to decide, but as someone who devotes every waking moment to my work and to becoming a better artist, I cannot imagine my life without art.
I will tell you a little about what art has done for me. In my younger days boredom was a strong motivator. I left the active duty Navy out of boredom. I couldn’t bear not being intellectually challenged (most of my jobs consisted of paper-pushing), not using my flying skills (at 27 I was a licensed commercial pilot and Boeing-727 flight engineer), and not developing my artistic talents. In what surely must be a first, the Navy turned me into a hard-working and disciplined artist. And once I left the Navy there was no plan B. There was no time to waste. It was “full speed ahead.”
Art is a calling. You do not need to be told this if you are among those who are called. It’s all about “the work,” that all-consuming focus of an artist’s life. If a particular activity doesn’t seem likely to make me a better artist, I tend to avoid it. I work hard to nourish and protect my gifts. As artists we invent our own tasks, learn whatever we need in order to progress, and complete projects in our own time. It is life lived at its freest.
My art-making has led me to fascinating places: Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, France, England, Italy, Bali, Java, Sri Lanka, and more; and to in-depth studies of intriguing subjects: drawing, color, composition, art and art history, the art business, film and film history, photography, mythology, literature, music, jazz and jazz history, and archaeology, particularly that of ancient Mesoamerica (Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Aztec, Maya, etc.). And this rich mixture continually grows! For anyone wanting to spend their time on earth learning and meeting new challenges, there is no better life!
Comments are welcome!
Posted in 2014, An Artist's Life, Art in general, Bali and Java, Creative Process, Guatemala, Inspiration, Mexico, Photography, Quotes, Sri Lanka, Travel, Working methods
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Q: You have spoken about learning to fly at the age of 25. What airplanes did you fly?
A: I learned to fly at a small airport in Caldwell, NJ. Flying is expensive and since I didn’t have much money, I sought a job at Liberty Aviation, the local flight school, in exchange for flying lessons. For every three hours I worked, I earned a flying lesson. At the time it cost $25/hour to rent a plane, plus $10/hour for an instructor, and I was fortunate to find an excellent flight instructor who offered to teach me for free.
After I completed ground school at Clifton High School, I took my first flying lesson. It was on April 1, 1978 in a (two-seat) Cessna 150. During the following months I flew every chance I could, in Cessna 150s and newer Cessna 152s, and also occasionally in Piper Cherokees. On September 24, 1978 I received my private pilot’s license.
Then I got checked-out in a larger (four-seat) Cessna 172. For my instrument training I flew Cessna 150s and 172s. I received my instrument rating in April 1979.
Next I trained for a commercial pilot’s license and a multi-engine rating. I flew Cessna 172s and a twin-engine Piper Seminole and obtained my license and rating in May 1980.
In December 1980 I began Boeing 727 flight engineer training at Flight International in Atlanta, GA. Most of this was in Boeing-727 flight simulators with Delta airline pilots as instructors. My check-ride was in a Boeing-727 owned by FedEx. I received my flight engineer’s certificate in February 1981. At the time I was the only woman in the entire school!
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Posted in 2014, An Artist's Life, Photography
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Q: What would you be if you were not an artist?
A: I honestly have no idea, but whatever it might be, there is a good chance that I’d be bored! In my younger days boredom was a strong motivator. I left the active duty Navy out of boredom. I couldn’t bear not being intellectually challenged (most of my jobs consisted of paper-pushing), not using my flying skills (at 27 I was a licensed commercial pilot and Boeing 727 flight engineer), and not developing my artistic talent. In what surely must be a first, by spending a lot of time and money training me for jobs I hated, the Navy turned me into a hard-working artist! And once I left the Navy there was no plan B. There was no time to waste. It was “full speed ahead.”
Art is a calling. You do not need to be told this if you are among those who are called. It’s all about “the work,” that all-consuming focus of an artist’s life. If a particular activity doesn’t make you a better artist, you avoid it. You work hard to nourish and protect your gifts. As artists we invent our own tasks, learn whatever we need in order to progress, and complete projects in our own time. It is life lived at its freest.
My art-making has led me to fascinating places: Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, France, England, Italy, Bali, Java and more; and to in-depth studies of intriguing subjects: drawing, color, composition, art and art history, the art business, film and film history, photography, mythology, literature, music, jazz history, and archaeology, particularly that of ancient Mesoamerica (the Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Aztec, Maya, etc.). And this rich mixture continually grows! For anyone wanting to spend their time on earth learning and meeting new challenges, there is no better life than that of an artist.
I SO agree with this exchange that I read years ago between between Trisha Brown and Mikhail Baryshnikov in the New York Times. I wrote it on a piece of paper and taped it to my studio wall:
Trisha: How do you think we keep going? Are we obsessed?
Mikhail: We do it because there’s nothing better. I’m serious. Because there is nothing more exciting than that. Life is so boring, that’s why we are driven to the mystery of creation.
Comments are welcome.
Posted in 2012, An Artist's Life, Art in general, Bali and Java, Creative Process, Guatemala, Inspiration, Mexico, New York, NY, Photography, Quotes
Tags: "full speed ahead", "the work", active duty, all-consuming, archaeology, Argentina, artist, Aztec, Bali, Boeing-727, bored, boredom, boring, Brazil, challenge, commercial pilot, creation, earth, England, exciting, film history, flight engineer, Flying, focus, France, gifts, Guatemala, Italy, Java, keep going, learn, Maya, Mexico, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Mixtec, motivator, mystery, Navy, New York Times, nourish, obsessed, paper, photography, progress, protect, serious, Studio, time, Trisha Brown, Uruguay, Zapotec