Note: Henry County artist Marilyn Witt spent her career with the U.S. Postal Service, and then found a new adventure as an artist. She is on the go as she collects ideas for her art, then paints in her home studio or with other artists in New Castle. She also participates in competitions, and does all involved with her second-act career. Marilyn has created the cover art for all three of my books, including the new one, There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go. Enjoy a visit with Marilyn.
Q: Marilyn, what do you enjoy about being an artist?
A: Knowing that I am responsible for making someone else happy is one of the most fulfilling feelings a person can experience. Having the ability to move people intellectually or emotionally through something you have made.
It is a good feeling to witness my artwork making others feel or think something; watching someone respond to my artwork in a profound way is one of the best feelings for an artist.
By being an artist, I get to feel the invigorating energy of creativity. You are surrounded by beauty. You get to be surrounded by a community of other artists who share in your experiences.
Whether someone is learning how to become an artist or the artist has been creating for years, an artist community is filled with artists of all ranges and styles. What they have in common is a passion for the act of creating something new that adds value to your world.
And last, by being able to place a monetary value on your creations, you see the worth of what you've made in a dollar amount. Knowing someone will pay money to have your artwork is a special feeling.
Q. Were you artsy earlier in life before the empty nest?
A. I guess in a way I was artsy. I was always doodling, even on my school papers, which wasn't always appreciated by my teachers. I thought more about being a musician or singer, though, when I was younger.
I played the piano and violin and still play the piano. The only thing I considered when younger in the visual arts was being a dress designer. I still wish at times I had pursued it. I drew and cut out outfits for my paper dolls, even sewing or gluing on them bits of lace, rickrack, or tiny beads.
Then when I began sewing, I made clothes for my dolls, and for my cats. I always enhanced my own clothing and my children's. I also designed and made costumes for community theater for the Guyer Opera House.
I didn't begin painting until my children graduated from high school and I began taking art classes at Indiana University East.
Q. What's it like being a cover artist?
A. One of the purposes of a book cover is to draw the attention of curious readers. The book- cover artist needs to be sure that each book cover created is both representative of the contents and spirit of the book and also be attention-grabbing when surrounded by all the other books.
It needs to capture the attention of the reader.
It is interesting and fun to create and design a cover that coincides with the author's visions for their work. I enjoy the challenge of working with the artist and learning their thoughts. Besides, you get to be the first one to read the book.
Q. What was the experience of designing There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go like?
A. This is the third book cover I have created for Donna. I enjoyed them all, but this one has been the most challenging, stressful at times, fun, and I think, the most rewarding experience for me, as an artist, of all of them.
It needed to be a unique design and include all the features in the attic to express the mood of the author's writing and the essence of the story.
Coming up with the items for the cover attic that were in the stories in the book was a lot of fun. Next was to design them in a way that is representative of the contents of the book and attention-grabbing when readers are skimming the bookstore shelves.
I wanted a "wow" factor. I think that was the lady with her hands on her hips wondering what in the world she was going to do with all this.
Donna gave me the idea and I had to make her just right. Maybe the hardest thing for me was making sure I didn't overload this one and make it too busy. After all, nearly anything can be in an attic, but this was one particular attic. Or maybe the most difficult was those rafters.
The most enjoyable part was working with the author. Donna knew what she wanted and shared her vision.
I was able to develop a few ideas too for how the cover should look. In the end, I think it was a great experience. I hope for both of us.
Note from Donna: Yes it was, Marilyn. And I can't thank you enough. It is an honor to work with you.
Marilyn is a member of numerous national and local art organizations. Her paintings are in various private and corporate collections in numerous states. Her work may be seen in the Brown County Art Gallery.
Married to Dennis, the couple farm near Straughn. Their family includes a son and a daughter along with several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Marilyn is active in her church and community.
Connect with her on her website, marilynwittart.com or via email: email@example.com.
OLD DINNER BELLS RING TRUE
Whenever I have the pleasure of traveling the back roads of Indiana, I play a private little game of "I Spy." What I'm looking for are examples of one thing: old iron dinner bells posted atop posts in people's lawns. Usually the bells are near what I suspect to be the kitchen entrance, or are decked out within a piece of landscaping or flower bed.
The bells are reminiscent of a time when Grandma rang the bell to let Grandpa know dinner's on the table. Or, they rang it loud and fast to let the neighbors know something was on fire. Or, at least that is what I surmise.
You tend not to see such relics on lawns with ranch houses or other modern structures. These bells are generally part and parcel of older farmhouses.
There were two old iron bells on my family's property. One is hosted, I'm sure to this day, next to the kitchen porch. The other sat in a corner of the barn. When my folks' things were parceled out, I claimed the bell from the barn but then it sat in corner of two of our garages. It never made it to the front burner as far as the to-do list went.
Then a few years ago, before my season of cleaning out the attic, I decided it should leave or get an upgrade. We called our friend Monty, who makes jobs Brian and I don't know how to do look easy. He put up a post, then attached the bell.
I love it.
Last summer I adorned the space surrounding the pole with marigolds. I'll do the same come May. You can take the girl off the farm but you can't take the farm out of the girl.
What's in your attic? Yard? Barn? Basement or back of the closet? Probably more than you know.
For more Friday nights growing up than I can count in elementary school, I got to ride the school bus home with Cheryl. Suppertime came early in their home, and then came riding on her tandem bike, playing around the farm, or in her little community.
But come dark, it was time to get out the Barbies and play until our eyes could no longer stay open. Cheryl and her sister had such treasures as a Barbie car and I'm pretty sure, if memory serves, a Barbie Dream House. They had a Ken for the Barbies to swoon after, and lots of cool Barbie clothes, including a faux mink coat.
The Barbies I'm showing are Barbie, Skipper and Midge. These girls played hard! They worked hard! Only after I was grown did little girls start owning fancy Barbies who were too pretty or special to play with. Not my girls.
They are treasures of little to zero value on the market (sorry girls, but your bangs situation depleted your retail status). But to me, they are my Barbies and I'm keeping them.
Do you have your Barbies?
I talk about my Barbies and so many other things in my new memoir, There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go. It's on Amazon, or you can get it from me as soon as my books arrive by Feb. 12.
During all of 1975 and 1976, Evelyn Jackson must have crocheted afghans day and night, night and day. They were large and lovely, perfect in every way. She crocheted them for at least, that I know of, two nieces, one nephew and me.
They arrived on Christmas day on our farm at Rural Route 1, Brownsville as our gifts from my brother, Tim, and wife Jeannie. Evelyn was Jeannie's mom.
Blue was then, and remains now, my favorite color and my eyes brighten still when I look at this perfect blend of blues.
At first, I put the sturdy blanket away, inside the cedar chest I appropriated from Mom. But it was far too comfy and warm and wonderful to hide in there for who knows how long.
I quickly got it out and it began its long history of keeping friend, family, and me warm.
It has held up beautifully through countless machine washings and dryings; survived baby spit-up, and maybe worse; comforted us all on many chilly nights, and traveled to Ball State University with Ben, where I wondered if that would be its demise and if it would make it home. But yes, it's right here, right now, and will see plenty of action in the next few days with a big snowstorm coming in
Just doing its thing for more than 45 years now. It's certainly something I have kept and will keep, and to be fair, it's spent plenty of time in and out of season in our hallway closet, ready to be called to duty, and it has never done time in the attic.
What afghans do you have around your house?
My new memoir, There's a Clydesdale in the Attic: Reflections on Keeping and Letting Go, is a new release on Amazon in both print and ebook formats. In a couple of weeks, I'll also have them available for mailing or direct purchase. I'll mention items found in our home on this blog regularly for a while. The book is about finding so much more than stuff while cleaning out our attic. Bet you've got a lot more than stuff in yours, too.