No fruits, no flowers, no light November. What a perfect month to steep ourselves in gratitude. This time, in the western hemisphere, the light on the horizon becomes weaker, giving space for the inner light to burn more brightly. It is the perfect time for writing, and painting. It is also the perfect month for expressing gratitude.

I've been a writer almost as long as I've been a painter, the two seem to go hand in hand for me. I use words to deepen the image and use images to strengthen the word. 

The writer I learned the most from was the master of imagery, a scribe who could turn a phrase on its head and then flip it right again within one line. His voice was so clear, and funny, and tragic, and poignant that I’ve chuckled and teared-up at the same verse.

I studied my mentor with a director’s eye for 20 years. Of course I’m talking about our man Will Shakespeare, the most playful of all writers.  

The painters, who taught me most as a young artist, were lyrical with color, generous in expression and most humble in their approach to art. I loved Van Gogh’s early work because it was so bad, and when I was young his early work dispelled the illusion I held that people were born masters who never really had to work at anything. He taught me determination.

So Vincent Van Gogh helped me as a very young artist, and then Georgia O Keefe helped me as a feminist artist, and Faith Ringgold helped me as a fiber artist, and Claude Monet helped me as a gardening artist, and then I discovered Helen Frankenthaler who helped me to see that abstract painting could break a heart in two and put it back together again whole.

I grew up going to museums and art galleries. They were fascinating places and at a young age I knew I wanted to be one of THOSE kinds of people; living in color and form and composition, with their hands waving in the air whenever they talked because that’s how I imagined my conversations with them.  

They were the lively ones, holed up in their studios putting in their time, thinking their deep thoughts and releasing their love on a white page or a blank canvas. These were the ones who ignited the fire that burns brightly beneath my life. And they were generous with their art.

So in this month of no fruits, no flowers, no-light-November I’m steeped in thoughts of gratitude to these glorious souls who showed this artist how to step into the unknown and to put herself out there with as much love and honesty as she could muster.

Thanks to them I grew up to be an artist and writer because, well, I simply can’t be anything else.