Artwork/Pyrography: A Sketchbook Review By C.S.Alexis
Just A Little Glimpse
My mother had 2 sons before I came along. She tells the story about how she wanted a little girl so bad that she prayed to God, "Please let this child be a girl. I do not care if she is born with straight hair and crossed eyes". I thank God that he ignored the, crossed eyes part". I was given the name Susan Alexis Crouch in honor of an older cousin, Nancy Sue and my Father, Harvey Alexander. My family was a close knit group so, my youngest years were spent with a lot of cousins, mostly boys. Mom was trying to break the streak when she had me, and break that streak she did.
The year after my birth, my little sister was born and, the following year our baby sister was born.That put me in the middle with 2 brothers older and 2 sisters younger. Our close ages made life very structured with Mom. She called us her "little troopers". We stood in line to be bathed, doctored, inspected and approved. It didn't matter what it was about, we fell into formation to complete the task at hand.
My Developing Creativity
My Father would joke and call us "Crouch's little army". When we were running rampant through the house, as very small children, we were dubbed ";the Indians". The times when we got too wild and, needed correction or discipline it was back to formation. I remember standing in line to get a spanking! My Dad had a way of making you think life was coming to an end, when a call for intervention was deemed appropriate, though he seldom raised a hand to any of us.
We did not have a lot of extra money but we did have structure and unity. During the winter our Friday nights were spent at "The Crouch's Little Theatre". This was my parents ingenuity, it kept us busy and entertained them at the same time. We would gather in the living room and take turns doing our individual gigs. We got to be on center stage for a short period of time and, do whatever we wanted, to show off our talents.
Looking back, I cherish the way both of my parents dealt with 4 children, all needing individual attention. This served as a way to teach us respect for each other, how to speak and act in a formal setting, how to deliver our personal agenda, and how to interact from stage. I am positive that there were other lessons learned as well.
We created an imaginary boundary for our stage. That was the entry to a formal dining area. There were two large pillars on either side with bookshelves, and an opening about six feet wide. We stood between those pillars when it was our turn. Visitors and house guests, family and friends would settle in the audience, located on the floor or the couch. Mom and Dad sat in the "directors chairs", which were their everyday chairs, and the show would begin.
Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and, The Arts
The fundamentals of learning were all that was needed to keep us relatively busy at home. We had friendly competitions in math and spelling. Dad insisted that we learn to recite poetry. He was extremely proud when my youngest sister, September, could stand in front of anyone, at 2+ years of age and spin off "The Gettysburg Address" , complete with proper voice enunciation and, physical gestures. We all learned to recite poetry and memorize information because my parents made a game of it. This was the beginning of my creative learning. We were encouraged to seek higher levels of achievement by creative competition.
Three of five of us, were always interested in drawing and making things. My brother Harv is very good with any kind of handy work. He was an inspiration to many of my early projects. He drew futuristic cars, science fiction characters, and other boy subjects. I was about 6 when he freaked me out so bad watching the spooky movies that I more or less gave up on TV. I would draw and make things when the others settled in to watch TV. I liked the alone time too. Artwork allowed me to dream on paper. That was trouble in school.
Dreaming My Life Away
My report cards often stated that I spent too much time daydreaming out the window. School was boring and I had a hard time setting still for so long. I did excel in art. By the age of 7 I knew that I would become an artist. Pablo Picasso was my hero, next to my Father. Dad was an architect and carpenter. By the time I was 10 yrs., old I saw myself as becoming the next Frank Lloyd Wright. I loved hanging out with Dad, going to construction sites, watching as he drafted his designs. I would pull a chair up next to his drawing table an sit quietly. I actually remember the first time I realized how to shade a square space so that it appeared to be a window. I was 6.
A Wink In The Dark
School had just started back that fall. I was in the 6th grade and the weather was starting to get cold at night. My sister and I went to the civic center to swim in the indoor pool. Mom was with the other three children in Chicago. Dad was working late. He was working on a project that would take all of us to Europe, where he planned to build some restaurant franchises.They say life can change in the wink of an eye.That night, somebody winked and, life as we knew it took a big turn. My Father was killed in an accident. The last thing I remember him saying to me was, mind your Mother always.
Life became dark and uncertain from that day on. Growing up had to start as soon as we finished laying his body to rest. I was the oldest girl and Mom had a double dose of responsibility ahead of her. My oldest brother had just brought a new child into the world and life went on, but the road ahead was rocky and rough. Money was always lean and Mom was different. She was serious, short tempered, and tired all of the time. I retreated into my artwork.
High School Art Classes and Teachers Who Cared
We moved to a better school district as soon as Mom could pull everything together and make the change. She pushed me hard and I was full of anger and resentment. There were no counselors or therapy. It was a struggle. I was suspended or expelled from school about 5 times.
My Mother was about at her wits end with my attitude but, she never gave up on me. She tried her best. She payed for art correspondence courses that she did not have the money for. She let me take music lessons, bought us a dog, a horse, guitars, cars and whatever else we showed an interest in. The credit cards were maxed out, but Mom did not give up. Instead she divvied up the responsibilities for survival in our home.
I was encouraged to use my creativity to make an income. I made earrings in my bedroom at night. I also worked after school for my oldest brother. We all babysat for cousins, neighbors and friends or mowed yards and shoveled snow. I washed walls in the summer time and never really had to ask Mom for extra money. I painted walls, sewed and did whatever it took to make some cash. Working was not forced on us. I saw it as a privilege to be able to find ways to make money. There was nobody standing on the corner handing it out for free.
Fantasy Vs. My Real World
Dreams of becoming an architect were surrendered when my high school informed me that drafting classes were for boys only. The anger unfolded like a raging fire in all the unfairness going on in my life. I decided that I would have to follow in the footsteps of somebody else. That is when I started thinking for myself and decided to screw what everyone else was trying to convince me to do. I wrote a poem about my Father's death and then I moved on.
I started searching for new role models, like Dr.Seuss, Walt Disney, and Marc Chagall. to help me create my own fantasy world. I was happy to find other ways to fill my void. At the age of 18 I hit the road for college and I hardly looked back to see what I had left behind. I was on a quest. I had a mission and that was to go do whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it... My rules and my regulations.
My life has been one creative journey after another. It has been good and bad and everything between.The road has been long and short and over the years I have felt "ADRIFT" in this world but, the most important thing I have learned, is to go with the flow.
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Chicago Lake Front Woodburning
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