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Three strong Scorpio women: mother-in-law enriches my love of art

Updated on November 17, 2013

Pat as teacher

Pat's passion expanded my perspective. Traveling through art museums, she was my personal guide, pointing out trends, explaining technique, expanding stories of particular artists she admired.

Because she was well trained in oils, pastels and acrylic, she understood what appeared on canvas from a physical, emotional and intellectual point of view. She had often attempted to apply similar principles on her own, and knew intimately the challenges and the successes of artistic work.

We visited art galleries in Vancouver, Victoria, Seattle, Portland, Denver, Vail, Santa Fe, Taos and Naples, Florida. These were wonderful, expansive times together. Times when disagreements were tabled and observational skills enhanced.

I remember particularly a visit to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, where we witnessed the work of Emily Carr. Emily Carr was a Canadian artist who "immersed herself in the people and landscape, and drew upon both for inspiration and subject matter for her painting that, in the first half of the 20th century, represented some of the most groundbreaking work in British Columbia and Canada. "

I was overcome by Carr's representation of trees. For me, massive, dark trunks expanding ever upward toward outstretched branches between which peeked the smallest glimpse of sky expanded my artistic soul. I felt as though I might have become an artist, had I been aware that art did not require staying inside the lines-- it encompassed soul expression.

"Art is art, nature is nature, you cannot improve upon it . . . Pictures should be inspired by nature, but made in the soul of the artist; it is the soul of the individual that counts," wrote Emily Carr in 1912.

Pat delighted in my intense interest in this gifted Canadian and bought me a small book containing Carr's collection of tree pieces.

I think she enjoyed this aspect of our relationship as much as I did.

Finding common ground

She is a beautiful woman, my mother-in-law: feisty and opinionated and smart. Such energy does not always inspire peace, when a daughter-in-law has her own modus-operandi. Conflicts arise and words are said.

I was 32 when I married Pat's son Jack. At this ripe old age, I had fairly black and white ideals regarding what was meant to happen in life and relationship. I ran my own show. Blending into Jack's family establishment required rigorous swishing, as oil met water.

However, there was one undeniable, connecting link between my mother-in-law and me; Pat was an artist of the highest degree. Her eye for beauty, brush stroke, and artistic expression was grounded in solid artistic practice.

There was no whimsy about her:

  • She was an ardent fan of Canada's Group of Seven, having studied their work at McGill University in Montreal.
  • As a twenty-something, she studied portraiture in Florence, Italy.
  • She had a studio in the family home, with active easels and an impressive collection of art books and magazines.

In short, she had much to teach and I was more than willing to become her student. Any artistic aspirations I'd had were abandoned in elementary school. However, the first loan I took from a bank paid for a cubist work of art I could not live without. I admired color and composition, favoring the Impressionists and their display of light. I perused children's picture books, noting their creative combination of words and art. As a marketing consultant, I commissioned graphic artists to compliment my writing bits.

In the midst of everything wrong with our relationship, art was a shared sacrament, a mysterious, sacred coming together that forgave a multitude of sins.

My Three Sons by Pat
My Three Sons by Pat | Source
Zinnia by Pat
Zinnia by Pat | Source
Race Horses by Pat
Race Horses by Pat | Source

Miss Pat Mooney, Staff Artist

From Montreal Zeller's Forum, Fall, 1953...

"The day when just-out-of-college Miss E.C. Patricia Mooney called upon Zeller's as a free-lance commercial artist has proved itself to have been a very good day for our advertising...When Miss Mooney started to work with us in 1950, her training in commercial art was of course only in its beginning stages. But from her readiness to adapt a technique in Fine Arts to advertising technique, we knew it would be almost no-time before her commercial work would be better than average. Today, with three years' experience in this field, Pat Mooney's adv-pictures compare very well with the work of commercial artists who started in it before Pat was born.

"When Pat was ten years old, she won a scholarship, her first scholarship from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, to study there. From then on came scholarship after scholarship... When she entered McGill University, her intention was to become an Architect. However, the Engineering Faculty did seem rather out of character for a very feminine young co-ed. So, reluctantly Pat switched to Arts.

"If there are the odd times when her pleasant disposition becomes a little ruffled, it is when we plan to farm-out an exceptionally difficult piece of artwork to someone with about 25 years' experience. At such times, Miss Mooney expresses her philosophy quite definitely... "It's no fun doing the easy sketches only". So we think about it, frequently capitulate, and when the job is finished decide long-term experience isn't necessarily a substitute for talent."

Quebec by Pat
Quebec by Pat | Source
Nana greets a grandson
Nana greets a grandson | Source

Nana Gifts

What a blessing,
to have a mother-in-law
who chooses to

spend an entire lunch
admiring photos of your

spend afternoons
painting portraits of
your children

worry and pray for
your children because
she loves them

so very much

Happy Birthday Nana!
Happy Birthday Nana! | Source

I thank you for illustrating my Trooper story.

Happy 85th Birthday, Nana!

I have come to love you as I know you have come to love me.

I think of you as I drive along Hampden past the gas station on Quincy, remembering a day your Suburban sat waiting to be repaired, following my road rage.

I think of you as I drive south along I-25 past the confusing exit near your apartment, where I tossed so many expired medications and jars of mustard.

I think of you when I watch the Broncos play against the Chiefs at our Denver stadium, remembering how you and I would sit in prime Mile High reserved seating and chat about the children, my writing or art- anything but the game evolving across the field.

I think of you as Thanksgiving approaches, remembering the turkey I stuffed and kept warm all the way to Charlou, insuring that Baba would have his last feast, complete with gravy and mashed potatoes.

I think of you when I see the Denver Art Museum Passport to Paris advertisements, wishing you were here to educate me further; I have so far to go.

I think of you as we prepare for another Christmas holiday, remembering party angst and Cherry Hills finery, the real Santa Claus and hay rides.

Yes, I do remember our disagreements and dissatisfaction and general diss-ness.

I love you Nana, warts and all.

© 2013 Barbara

How has your mother-in-law enriched your life? Share your story here.

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    • Storytellersrus profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Jaspal, this illustration is one Pat did for my short story about the Tenth Mountain Division during WW2. The soldier is climbing Riva Ridge in the Apennines, where Germans perched like eagles upon a craggy nest, viewing the entire mountain range in all directions. The surprise attack by this brave lot of men, climbing to battle in the middle of the night, turned the war toward the Allies. The Division went on to suffer great losses on Belvedere and crossing the Volturno River. But it all began with success at Riva Ridge.

      Thanks, as always, for the read!

      Phyllis, you read deep, as I have noticed is characteristic of you. I appreciate this so very much. Thank you.

    • Jaspal profile image


      4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      What a great tribute! Heartiest congratulations to Pat on her birthday ... she is more than worthy of being your mom in law! :)

      P.S. Love the pics of her paintings, but the one that strikes a cord somewhere inside me is the sketch of a soldier climbing a rock face ...

    • Phyllis Doyle profile image

      Phyllis Doyle Burns 

      4 years ago from High desert of Nevada.

      Such a wonderful way you and you MIL connected and found the way to relate and love each other. What a blessing this is. From the way you wrote about Pat, I can tell there is a deep and loving friendship there that goes beyond MIL and DIL. For your whole family this must be a blessing, to have two such talented, creative and strong women taking care of things and enjoying life. You are very fortunate, Storyteller, to have Pat for a MIL, and she is also very fortunate to have you in her life. Very nice hub -- I so enjoyed reading it.

    • Storytellersrus profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      You overwhelm me, Frank. Thanks so much.

      Fe, that means a great deal to me. I have been so lucky to have a talented mother-in-law! I have three portraits of my children to cherish, among other blessings.

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 

      4 years ago

      I always enjoy your heartfelt tributes to the important people in your life! And what a talented artist your mother-in-law wishes to her on her special day. :)

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 

      4 years ago from Shelton

      how do I comment on such a well written hub.. birthday wishes first and secondly you bring warmth through your praise, endearment and your poetry.. yeah enjoyed reading this hub Story


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