Recently, I discovered a watercolor in the bottom of my dresser drawer that I painted back in the 50s (1950s, not 1850s) when I was seven years old. It's interesting to look at your life through the prism of a childhood watercolor.
Back then, my parents rented an old, clap board farm house in the country near Arrowsmith, Illinois. The house had electricity, but no hot or cold running water or central heat. Heat was an old coal-burning stove in the kitchen that blew up the first winter we moved in. That first winter we (my parents, brother and I) lived in the kitchen to stay warm. The kitchen had a faux braided rug made of linoleum on the kitchen floor. Whenever the wind blew, it would blow under the front door and lift up the linoleum. My mother finally got the hang of stuffing rags around the bottom of the door.
There was no bathroom. We made do with a stinky out house and an old clawfoot bathtub that sat in the enclosed back porch. (I don't remember how they even drained the damn thing.) We had to heat the water for baths, of course. Most baths for us children were conducted in a square metal tub that was set in the middle of the kitchen on Saturday nights.
The kitchen was the main room in the house. In one corner was a curtained area that had a sink, a water pump, and a small cabinet for dishes. In the opposite corner was the infamous coal stove that kept us alive in the winter when it wasn't trying to blow us up. A table and chairs, refrigerator, stove, a TV (the kind with the snowy black and white screen), and a day bed filled up the rest of the large farm kitchen. It was there that I created this drawing on the kitchen table.
I was obsessed with drawing and painting. One day my father, who dealt in antiques at that time, brought home an old secretary desk. Inside was an art book on nude drawing that became my treasured possession. (My youngest daughter now has this book and if she every loses it, I'll strangle her.) I studied every page. At that time, not only was I obsessed with drawing, but I was obsessed with the Virgin Mary. The poor woman had to first be drawn in the nude so the drawing could be anatomically correct before I dressed her. I was so obsessed with drawing, that my first grade teacher, Miss Louis, always allowed me to draw on the blackboard during lunch hour. She thought I was going to be a great artist. Ha!
As you can see from this drawing, my life at that time was dominated by the outdoors and hunting. My father raised Weimeraners and German Shorthaired Pointers. In the fall, he and his friends went pheasant hunting in the stubbly corn fields. It was a religion with him--the only one he ever believed in. My first lessons in life were about the earth, animals, and, yes, staying alive.