Studies have shown that if you gather a bunch of nine-year-olds in a gymnasium and describe to them the physics of a back handspring, you’ll see in return a collection of head cocks and fidgets. Instead, researchers noticed that kids will jump to their feet when an actual gymnast performs this right in front of them. A back handspring — like a life in art — is perhaps easier to attempt when you’ve witnessed someone else doing it.
Some time ago, I was rehearsing with my duet partner in New York — a serious artist building his own jazz creds and hours and musicality as long and wondrous as Broadway. He put down his bow and leaned in, elbow on piano: “You’re a second-generation artist, Sara. You have it smoother because you’ve seen someone do it and thrive.” I swallowed his words and ruminated in my own doubts and debts. Even amidst my epic failures and technical K2s, I was possibly, as he described, living in a kind of inherited belief system, surviving on the life raft of a dreamer’s paradigm — on a million back handsprings witnessed.
In a recent study on dynastic professions by The New York Times, analysts have discovered, among other things, that daughters of artist fathers are eight times more likely to become artists themselves. Certain kinds of work, they say — trades, art and music, for example — form a cult-like family way of life, permeating values that hurl some kids into the eye of the art storm. I was working in Dad’s studio when the phone rang — it was writer Claire Miller from The New York Times. I told her about our house of activity and how the influence was simply, as my dad described, “infecting your kids with your joy.” “What was it like?” she asked. I answered, “He loved his work, he loved his life — and we wanted to be in love, too.”
PS: “I now realize how intensely I’ve been living through my family.” (N.C. Wyeth)
Esoterica: American illustrator N.C. Wyeth settled in Chadd’s Ford, Pennsylvania in 1907, where he built a studio on his property and with his wife, Carolyn, raised three artists, one musician and a mechanical engineer. His youngest, Andrew Wyeth, would become one of the best-known American realists of the 20th Century, and he would also raise an artist son, Jamie Wyeth. Though his grandfather passed away a year before his birth, Jamie spent his childhood shuttling between the studio in his parent’s house at Chadd’s Ford and up the hill to his grandfather’s studio where his Aunt Carolyn painted for her whole life. “From my earliest memories, my aunt was squirting out oil paint. I could just eat it,” said Jamie. “I would go from her studio and walk down to my father’s house, and there he was, working in egg tempera.”
Quoctrung Bui and Claire Miller’s interactive article on dynastic occupations, The Jobs You’re Most Likely to Inherit From Your Mother and Father, which includes Sara’s input, is here.
“We lived in my father’s studio, so there were the brushes and the pencils and the paint. So it would – it was very natural for me to want to paint, I think, and it was never a question.” (Jamie Wyeth)
“I had whooping cough when I was very young, which left me with bronchial problems, and I would always pick up colds. I was very thin and nervous so my father and mother took me out of school and had me tutored at home.” (Andrew Wyeth)
Take a winter break! Join me, Hermann Brandt for one or both of these retreat/workshops in sunny Mexico.
Casa Buena is a gorgeous art retreat center, right on the ocean. Jane Romanishko is a fabulous host and goes above and beyond to make sure you have a fantastic time. Included: Most art materials, meals, accommodation, a jungle-river boat trip and several sightseeing ventures. For beginner to intermediate level artists. Figure drawing (Feb 14-21) – from life; nude model. Plein air (Feb 21-28) – beach scenes, fishing villages and surrounding hills. I look forward to sharing a time of fun and learning.