How did I get here? Part I
I can't remember when I started drawing and painting, but I'm betting it was pretty young. When I was about eight my parents enrolled me in extracurricular art classes, which I took until I graduated high school. These were supplemented by a pre-college program one summer at Pratt and frequent young artists' workshops at Moore College of Art (convenient, when you grow up in a suburb of Philadelphia). My dad has a story he tells where I told him, at five-years-old, that I wanted to by an artist when I grew up (but when I went to college I wanted to double-major in business because I didn't think you could "just" be an artist. I was a weird five-year-old.). Turns out, I ended up majoring in scenic art and design, and now paint scenery for theatre professionally. Five-year-old me is super proud.
Somewhere along the line, while in college, I became too busy to keep a sketchbook and pretty much stopped doing fine art on the side. We had some drawing classes freshman year, but after that it was mostly theatre classes and general education requirements. Junior year I was lucky enough to study abroad in London for a semester. The theatre majors have a class that includes a three hour walking tour of different parts of London every week, and at the end of the semester you are required to hand in an illustrated journal with entries documented every week. Although "illustrated" was up to interpretation (most included photos taken on the tours and pamphlets and paraphernalia picked up at locations we visited), I took the opportunity to do full watercolor and pen drawings based on photos I had taken.
I spent spring break that semester in Italy with my roommate (coincidentally, also a painter), and we spent three hours one morning sketching in a town outside of Venice. It was my first real time sketching plein air, and I loved it. A bonus was being approached by several Italians who didn't speak English and trying to communicate. They don't get many tourists, and the kids were confused as to why I couldn't speak Italian. Their parents were amused that an American found her way out to the suburbs. My favorite, though, was an older, immpeccably dressed gentleman (white linen suit, white fedora, walking with a cane. It's like he walked right out of The Godfather), who came over and tried several different languages before settling on English as the one I knew (seriously, he went through Italian, Spanish, and German first. Nice to know I could pass as any of those things! Ha.). He then pointed at my drawing, grinned, and said "Beautiful!" obviously very proud to know the word. Even though it would be several years before I sketch onsite again, I definitely credit that whole experience with my love of sketching from life.