Thursday, October 29, 2015

My Unfinished 1981 Sketch "Reading In Bed"

"Reading In Bed"
An unfinished pencil crayon sketch 1981
By Cindi Moynahan
The Unfinished Sketch

This is an unfinished sketch that I did in 1981 in pencil crayon. I don't remember drawing it and I have no idea why I never got around to finishing it. I often wondered what my source of inspiration was for this sketch and I discovered the source accidentally a couple of days ago (more on that later).

I do remember 1981 though. On New Years day 1981, my mother became seriously ill with what we soon learned was an advanced and aggressive form of leukemia. She put up a valiant battle to fight it but cancer overcame her just days before her forty-fifth birthday on July 7th.

Did I do this sketch in the six months before my mother died or in the six months after she died? I don't remember. The sketch has only "Cindy Moynahan 1981" written on it without a month. But looking at this unfinished sketch makes me so happy and that is why it has a special place on the wall in my second-floor gallery.

The Second Floor Gallery

I have been drawing and creating all of my life......for as long as I remember. I fantasized about my retirement and how I could finally release my inner artist and spend the rest of my live-long days happily sketching, painting and creating.

When the time drew near to transform my fantasy into a reality I immersed myself in art books like Austin Keon’s “Show your Work”; Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way" and many others (all borrowed from the Ottawa Public Library).

In one of the books, I cannot remember which one, it asked if, as an artist, you display your artwork in your own home? The answer for me was a loud "No! Never".

I had artwork in my home, but it was all by other artists. The article then asked, "Why not?" and went on to urge artists to create galleries in their homes and fill their walls with their own artwork - which I did.

Self-portrait in my "Second Floor Gallery"
 beside a portrait sketched of me in 1968 by G. Williams
Source: Blog Post "To Be An Artist Is To Believe In Life"

My newest artwork (2000-2015) is located on my main floor, but I created a "retro gallery" of my artwork from the 1970s and 1980s on the second floor. My 1990s were artistically sparse - that decade being a joyful time of motherhood and collaborative artmaking with my very talented and creative children.

All of this to say that my unfinished pencil crayon sketch "Reading in Bed" has a permanent spot in my home in my second-floor gallery.

Reading In Bed or Crackers In Bed

Why did I do this sketch in 1981 (my "annus horribilis") of a young girl reading in bed? And why didn't I finish it?

A clue came to me recently by way of an article written by Norman Rockwell's granddaughter Abigail. I was researching some old Saturday Evening Post covers for Halloween and saw this cover art by Norman Rockwell:

 And Every Lad May Be Aladdin (Crackers in Bed)
Edison Mazda advertisement, 1920
Norman Rockwell
Abigail Rockwell wrote:
"Here’s a story for you.  
Very early one morning, I couldn’t sleep so I went on Facebook. I was scanning the feed, looking for something to connect to, hold on to, perhaps transport me.  
I happened upon a friend’s post of this painting depicting a boy in bed. It immediately drew me in. It’s evening, and he’s sitting up in bed, intently reading. Completely absorbed. So focused on his book that he tilts the lamp to directly shine its light so no text is obscured, and shuts out all distractions. Who painted this? I wondered."
I happened upon Abigail's post and I immediately knew where the source for my sketch had come from!

I clearly copied what I loved about Norman Rockwell's painting, the same things that drew Abigail Rockwell unknowingly into her grandfather's painting. I then substituted a young girl for the young boy, slippers for the shoes and I removed the box of crackers all together! I even intended to replace the dog with a cat but never finished!

The slippers in my painting are identical to the slippers that my mother always wore at the time. It makes me wonder if I actually used my mother's slippers as a model for my pencil outline?

Detail of unfinished cat and slippers.
I was a huge Norman Rockwell fan in my youth (still am) and my brother-in-law gave me a gift that I treasure still to this day - a huge Norman Rockwell book of his complete works. I likely saw the original "Crackers in Bed" in there!? (*see correction below)

*Correction: This is the oversized Norman Rockwell book
that my brother-in-law gave to me and it features Norman's cover art only.

Crackers in Bed was a 1920 Edison Mazda Lamp advertisement


Detail of unfinished book and wall.

Abigail wrote of her experience with her grandfather's painting:
"The magic of the painting held me for quite a while. I didn’t want to leave the comfort and safety of that room, the boy’s world and that private moment.....  it speaks to the adventure, enchantment, and safety of childhood."
Maybe that's why I needed to copy Norman Rockwell's painting and sketch a feminine version of it for myself in 1981.

In a year of such profound loss, I was needing to cling to the safety of my childhood.

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