Artist Statement 2019

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear (Lao Tzu).” [1] We had finished the addition to our house that included a studio for my future life as a painter when Myrtle Laabs (1904 – 2004)[2], a centenarian watercolorist from Springfield, MO, moved in across the street to live with her daughter and son-in-law. My husband suggested I ask her to be my painting teacher. When she invited me over to play in her studio I became her student in what she called Saturday afternoon kindergarten. Myrtle taught me about paying attention and beginner’s mind.[3] She told me I would never graduate. Kindergarten included demonstration, practice, critique, and snacks. At some point in the afternoon she would announce “chocolate calling!” We’d head for the kitchen, allow our paintings to rest, and enjoy a chocolate treat, often frozen yogurt.  Some of the many lessons of Myrtle’s kindergarten included:

1.     Don’t copy someone else’s work without permission.

2.     Less is more.

3.     Don’t be afraid…it’s only paper.

4.     Paint with more than your hand.

5.     Treat mistakes as opportunities.

6.     Learn something new every day.

7.     Prepare for your next stage before you get there.

Following a 35-year career at the University of Arkansas School of Nursing teaching future generations of nurses how to diagnose and treat human responses to health and illness, I began the next stage of my life as a visual artist.  I explore the endless variety of the human form through life drawing. I use the energy of the human gesture to create abstract watercolor paintings. I hope my art to starts a conversation with the audience and invites extended looking and remembering after the initial encounter. I’ve spent my life thus far seeking art and now I want my art to seek its own life in the world.

Lao Tzu as cited at

[2] Myrtle Laabs’ solo show

[3] Paul Siudzinski (1978) in his book Sumi-e: A meditation in ink characterizes beginner’s mind “as if seeing something for the first time…to capture the inner spirit of the subject. To follow the way of the brush…” (p. 6). Siudzinski, P. (1978). Sumi-e: A meditation in ink. London: Sterling Publishing Co.