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Mother's Day art straight from the heart

Tammy Swift, columnist1 / 2
Tammy Swift recently began nurturing her love of art, a gift from her mother. She painted this card to give to her mom. Special to The Forum2 / 2

I often wonder what it was like for Rembrandt's son.

What could he give his dad for Father's Day? Surely he couldn't present him with his macaroni art of a monster truck and think his dad was going to take time out of painting "The Night Watch" to coo over his pasta project and hang it on the refrigerator. (Humor me for a moment as we all envision Rembrandt using the in-door icemaker on his stainless steel Frigidaire to chill a Red Bull.)

The same might apply for any offspring of highly accomplished people. What would it be like to bring home your book report if your dad is John Updike? What happens if Gordon Ramsay's child presents him with her first Easy Bake oven cake? (For some reason, I imagine him screaming: "It's RAAAAWWW, you little donkey!")

That's kind of the same way I feel about my mother.

My mom is good at many things. She's very artistic and has mastered everything from china painting and palette-knife painting to framing and matting art. I've always been proud of the story of how she started painting: She brought my artistic sister to a local artist for art lessons, and then showed such interest that the teacher, Edna, said, "Next time, you're going to paint too." Before long, my sister had lost interest, but Mom kept painting.

As Mom has never met a lily she won't gild, she turned her artistic interest into a full-scale business, opening an art studio, creating and selling her own art and traveling the state to give art lessons.

Judging by the giant, fat man I once drew on the back of Mom's white, leather recliner, I must have inherited some of her artistic skill. Before I could write, I drew. For years, I told anyone who would listen that I planned to go to Bismarck Junior College (now Bismarck State College) for a commercial art degree.

There was only one problem. I lacked discipline. I occasionally took an art lesson from Mom, but I didn't like the idea of being told what to do. Wasn't it enough that she could make me clean my room? She didn't get to tell me how to paint a horse too, dagnabbit!

Eventually, I took an "intro to mass communications" class, and my interests tipped that way. I owned a beautiful box of art supplies, but they languished in storage for decades. The interest just wasn't there, and I figured I could never be as good as Mom anyway.

But lately, for some odd reason, my interest in art has resurfaced.

First, I spotted some cool art made with alcohol inks on Pinterest. I loved the process of brushing or dripping the vivid, transparent inks on Yupo paper, only to watch them swirl, mix and diffuse when sprayed with rubbing alcohol. It was almost like life: You added the ingredients to the best of your knowledge — trying hard not to micromanage things, but fate ultimately decided how it would turn out.

I also became intrigued by newspaper and journal art, which involves painting images — either with sheer ink or opaque paints — over the top of text-filled page. This technique allows me to blend the two things I like the most: pictures AND words.

I'm rusty after years of inactivity. I'm sure Mom would find 100 ways to improve them. I've tried to summon forth memories of what she used to tell her art students about shading, perspective, color and light. Even so, I'm mainly drawing on instinct.

My images aren't fine art, and many are simply adapted from the cutesy images of tea-sipping teddy bears and Bambi-esque deer on Pinterest. It's almost as if I've taken up with the subject matter I was most interested in at 14 or 15, when I last was interested in making art.

Even so, I love the idea of homey creations that could cozy up a kitchen nook or a nursery. For some reason, the very act of swishing paint on paper makes me feel whole.

Tammy Swift recently began nurturing her love of art, a gift from her mother. She painted this card to give to her mom.

For Mother's Day this year, I plan to present Mom with a sketch of a mom cradling a new baby. It includes the words, "Mom, Because of you, I've never gone a day without knowing I am loved."

I hope she will see it for what it is: An honest expression of my appreciation for her and a token of gratitude for instilling a love of art in her kids. I hope she will see that, even if it isn't perfect, it is something I worked hard on, and enjoyed creating.

Most of all, I hope she hangs it on the fridge.

Readers can reach columnist Tammy Swift at tswiftsletten@gmail.com.