I’m sitting in one last cramped corner of what used to be my studio, as the moving boxes close in on me from all sides. I’ve been camped out here for about a week and a half now, with a daily routine that looks something like this: eat, pack, take care of Cece, paint, pack, sleep, repeat. Cece still has her play pen and the ignorant bliss of toddlerhood to protect her from the giant obstacle course our home has become. But our dog hides in her crate most of the day and knows something is up.
Something BIG is happening. After living in Dallas for nearly seven years, we are packing our things and moving to Denver to be closer to family – namely, my twin sister Emily and her husband, and their little girl who is just three months younger than Cecelia.
Most of these boxes contain art, art books, or art supplies
Dallas has been good to us. Almost immediately after Steve and I were married in 2008, we moved here for Steve’s job. He had found this rental home a couple months prior, and signed the lease without me ever seeing it in person. I trusted that he would find a space that had a good-sized studio, and he did a great job with that! However, when I first stepped foot in this house and he showed me the office he had selected for me to use as a studio, I turned to him and said, “No, I’m going to need the whole front room.” I took over the 20x30’ space that made up ¼ of the entire house, and used that space well over the years. I started out with a French easel in the corner and a couple of blank canvases. It was intimidating to go from recent art student and college grad to “professional artist,” but I knew that I would have to build up my body of work, and that would take time. I tried doing art festivals, but those were costly and not a good fit for the kind of fine art that I do. I also visited galleries and tried to be brave about meeting the owners and showing them my work. I eventually gained representation with Weiler House Fine Art in Fort Worth, and was with them for about 5 years. It was a great experience and I'll always be thankful to Bill for recognizing my talent and giving me a chance, even though I was a total newcomer.
Steve and Anna as newlyweds, in their new rental home, July 2008
Anna checking out her new studio space, July 2008
My dear friend Erica graciously posing for me when I needed a model, 2009
I also discovered the wonderful Dallas art community. It took some looking, but God brought the right people into my life. The first time I attended the Portrait Society of America conference in 2009, I was watching one of the artists in the Face Off demo and happened to be standing next to a lady named Becky who was also from Dallas. We struck up a conversation and she told me about an artist who ran a life drawing and painting group called the Society of Figurative Arts, just twenty minutes from where I live. She gave me his number, and one day, I worked up the guts to call him and show up for class. His name is Michael Mentler, and we've been great friends ever since. I was lucky to have met Becky, and Michael. I was also lucky to be a part of the Portrait Society, and to serve as their Texas state ambassador for four years. That "job" gave me the opportunity to connect with artists from all around the state, and to help them find each other. I've discovered that artists take a while to come out of their shells, so you have to really ask around and seek out the art communities - they won't come to you! Unless, of course, they want you to teach...
So I began teaching. At first I didn't want to, but I discovered that I really enjoyed it, and was good at it. I taught workshops and gave demos at local art groups, but mostly I taught classes and private lessons out of my home studio. The space has been well-loved; my final class this past April had a total of nine students - the maximum number that would fit around the model stand! I now have an entire network of wonderful students and art models who I also count as friends.
Set-up for a portrait demo in my home studio, fall 2014
My beautiful and talented friend (who was also one of my very first students), Linda Smith, with her work in one of my classes, fall 2013
A group of students painting one of our favorite Dallas models, Kia (oh, I will miss my models!)
In Dallas we had a great church community, and we enjoyed many of the aspects of "big city life" (keep in mind that I grew up in rural Wisconsin!), including visiting the art museums, zoos, botanical gardens, and gourmet restaurants. We turned into foodies, and made it a tradition to try new places on a regular basis. Then, this past year, we experienced the wonder and joy of becoming new parents, but we also discovered that parenting, as they say, “takes a village,” and I realized that my village was missing. I missed my sister.
So, we made the decision this spring to move to Colorado, and since we've only known our official move date (June 1st) for about two weeks, it's been total chaos ever since. I have felt the need for closure in this chapter of our lives. But I've also been swamped with work. The portrait commissions keep rolling in, and that is why my easel is still sitting here, amidst the moving boxes. I have one more painting to finish and deliver this week, and then we move on Sunday.
I took this picture today. The moving boxes are threatening to bury me as I finish up this portrait commission!
Cece’s first birthday came and went, and where did the time go? We were so busy, all we had time to do was make her a cupcake with an unlit candle in the shape of a "1". We got some pictures of it, but she didn't really like the cupcake; she ended up mushing it up with her fingers and then flinging it off her tray.
Cece turned 1 on May 5
Thankfully, Cece is not walking yet. We are moving at just the right time, as I don't have to worry about chasing her around the house. She is amazingly content to hang out with her toys in her play pen while I pack, or paint. I am thankful for her independent spirit, which I'm pretty sure she got from me. ;-)
Living in Dallas has grown me up, and I will always cherish my memories here. But it's time for a new life chapter to begin, time for our daughter to grow up with her cousin. Time for mountains and clean air. Time for family. We are ready!