My Winding Road:
by Becky (FayBecca) McKinniss.
Edited by Steve Cooke
Fall Edition 2018
The Next Chapter of My Life
If You Reach a Fork In The Road, Take It!
My desire to explore art had a huge impact on my life. I started to realize I had artistic abilities when I was a teenager and took my first art class. At the time, I was surprised that several of my pieces actually won awards and that my art showed promise. This had such a impact on me, that ultimately it enhanced my desire to explore the possibilities further. When I graduated, I very much wanted to pursue this new found love when looking at furthering my education. Unfortunately, my parents were dead set against the idea, and at the time emphasized that “I needed a real profession” and that “artist were lazy and made no money”. At the time, nothing I could do or say convinced them otherwise. It was constantly drummed into me that I needed to pursue a real profession and soon I realized that, when push comes to shove, it was a losing battle and I was unable to change their minds. After much debate with myself, I reluctantly put my love of the art on a shelf and preceded to go to college where I pursued a career as a respectable teacher.
Many times we do not follow our dreams because of what people say to us, people we feel know best and whom we respect and love. I never quit thinking about using my artistic ability through the years and knew one day I would find it again. Ironically, it wasn’t until my mother began painting later in life that I was inspired to think about the possibility again. She was a lovely artist in her own right and surprisingly supported my efforts, mentoring me as I began to paint.
One Sunday, we were sitting in the living room along with my pup Daisy who was sitting on my husband’s lap. As she stared at me, I noticed that she had the cutest expression on her face. It was at that moment that it hit me that I wanted to attempt to draw her and then paint her portrait. I was so pleased with the outcome that I could not wait to paint more dogs and pet portraits. I continued my obsession by painting my family’s and friend’s pups. I quickly realized how important it was for me to “catch that special look”. A dog’s eyes are the window to their soul and I felt compelled to make sure I captured them correctly.
Who would have ever thought that later in life my mother would become such a beautiful artist when she was so against it and that I would find my true flow in life? I never held my mother’s lack of support early on against her, but marveled in her growth and her personal artistic abilities. I honor my late mother, Fay, each and every day, by using her name as part of my artist pseudonym FayBecca.
There Is No Life Without Dogs
Today, we have two dogs, both Maltese, who have now been in our family for 9 and 10 years. Lily is the oldest and is mild tempered and just as sweet as she can be. She is not interested in doggy toys at all and never has been. She puts up with her sister Daisy, who is constantly trying to get her to play…and on occasion Lily will humor her by partaking in a game of chase. In spite of their differences, they truly love each other and hate being separated. When I get into an artist funk, they are there to comfort me ane make me laugh. All I have to do is look at Daisy as she is usually sleeping on her back with her legs straight up in the air. This is my true inspiration for my work.
A Muse Or Two To Amuse
Both dogs are with me constantly, especially when I am in the studio. However, my studio is located on the 3rd floor of our home which means climbing two sets of stairs. When we decided to renovate that room into an art loft, we had our stairs stripped of all carpet and had it all replaced with wood. This did not sit right with my pups and quickly we realized that because they are so little, they could not negotiate the new wood steps easily and were prone to slipping and falling. I tried putting rubber booties on their feet to no avail as they hated the feel of the booties. This has made for an extreme exercise program lugging two dogs up and down two flights of stairs many times during the day.
My daily painting sessions in the studio now require attention and planning on the amount of time I will be there so my painting companions can get comfy and will stay put for awhile. Once they settle down, I can begin to paint and they are content temporarily where they enjoy lounging and listening to music right at my feet…daring me to move.
A Space To Create…Created With Love
As of now, all of our children are grown and married and no longer live at home, which is a very good thing. One can become very introspective when there is a quiet house. My husband suggested we renovate our 3rd floor loft which had earlier served as a children’s playroom. I am so lucky to be married to such a handy man that not only supports my craft, but helps me make it possible. With planning and an evaluation of my needs, we completely renovated the loft… putting in hard bamboo floors and adding much needed furniture and shelving for all of my art stuff.
This loft now has become my oil painting studio with room for my large easel and space for teaching art. Although not a huge area, it feels just right! I love the large windows and the wonderful natural light that pours into this room. It also feels as if I am in a treehouse overlooking my beautiful garden. An added benefit has been that now I have the opportunity to have one-on-one art classes in my new art loft.
I try to teach on a regular basis, my added joy I did not expect at first, but think it comes naturally as teaching will forever be in my blood. I tell my students, “EVERYONE is an artist!”
My goal now is to share my knowledge in helping others uncover their hidden potential.
Music Is Art For Mood
The pups and I love all genres of music and listen to music continuously. It has a way of inspiring me artistically in many ways. From Rap to Classical. It all serves a unique purpose and helps me depending on what mood I am in on any given day.
Things On My Desk Reflect Where I’ve Been and Who I Am
There are several special items on my desk that are near and dear to my heart and help to inspire me everyday. I took a pottery class and made a few pieces that certainly don’t look like much but constantly remind me to always try new things. I have pictures of my family and especially my grandchildren, who remind me to keep my inner child and play as often as I can. I also have memorabilia from my many travels and places we have lived to inspire me to continue exploring this beautiful world.
My most cherished item I have is my mother’s large studio easel that she used for all of her painting. It may sound funny, but right after she died, I could feel her essence… her aura I guess you would say… surrounding me when I would paint using her easel. It had such a calming effect on me as though she was giving me direction as I painted. Whenever I need to relax and get into a zone of painting, I use her easel.
If I’m Not Painting, It’s On My Mind
I had an idea for writing and illustrating a children’s book using my pups as the characters and was pleasantly surprised when a writer friend approached me on a possible collaboration. Being a school librarian for most of my life, this had always been a dream of mine.
Routine Is Not A State Of Mind
My daily life is anything but routine but there is one aspect of my morning that remains constant. During the week, I am up at 5:00 am with my husband, with whom I spend time having coffee and breakfast with before he starts his day. Thankfully, unlike him, I am now retired which gives me the luxury of easing into my day and enjoying each moment.
It is amazing…when you love what you do it does not become a burden or a chore but is actually fun and exciting.
Today Is The First Day Of The Rest Of Your Life
Around 7:00, with a cup of coffee in hand, I head up three flights of stairs to the art loft studio. Oh, and I must not forget to immediately come back down to get two pups who may be sitting patiently at the bottom of the stairs with a look on their face that says “speed it up mom, we are waiting!” which now results into two more trips up and down as I only can carry one pup at a time. Once I get settled and organized, I attend to the routine part of my business. This includes checking in and posting new artwork regularly on social media, adding a new blog, artwork, updates, and content to my website. Around mid morning I take a break as dogs are getting restless, as well as myself, need to go for a walk. When I return to the studio, adding two more trips upstairs with pups, I usually begin painting and because I actually have two to three pieces going at once, I will work on what moves me that day. When I am in my “painting zone”, time can very easily get away from me. I try to spend anywhere from 2-4 hours painting which usually means skipping lunch.
Since I work alone, it is very important that I stay connected with the artist community through different art groups. Being connected offers many art related activities, such as demonstrations, workshops and many other learning forums which I like to participate in. It also gives me an opportunity to gain further knowledge and understanding from emerging techniques, style, composition and color. Fitting this all into an already crowded day, is yet one more added challenge, but vitally important. This also includes entering as many small venues in order to display my work which includes putting art in our monthly local Art Walk and the National Arts Program for emerging and professional artists.
There are so many aspects to being a full-time artist that not many realize it is not all about painting. However, I am happy to say that all this hard work does pay off in many ways. It certainly has helped to build my confidence especially when I come home with an award, but the main benefit is that of a job well done.
When a person cries tears of joy as I present their precious dog portrait to them, it sends me a clear message that I am doing something right and nothing gives me more joy.
After a full and productive day in the studio, which may or may not include several more puppy trips up and down stairs, we finally make our last descent (around 4:00) and prepare to greet my husband as he walks in the door.
Dogs Literally Taught Me The Meaning of Life
Like most families, we usually had a cat or a dog in our home. Starting at the young age of five, our black Cocker Spaniel named Shelly, was my first example of what dog ownership was like. She was our first dog and the most memorable of all. The lesson I learned most with Shelly was the heartbreak one can experience with loving something other than ourselves. She was my first love and constant companion as a little girl. Shelly was my Lassie…she slept with me and followed me everywhere. She was my best friend and the one who taught me true empathy early on in life. She also brought me the most traumatic event of my young life. One day we arrived home to find her lying in the busy road in front of our house, where she had been hit by a car and killed. I ran so fast to the curb after this happened that everyone thought I was going to run straight into the street to my dog. I was crying uncontrollably as traffic stopped in both directions and watched as I mourned the loss of my best friend. As sad as this story was, it taught me about life, the joy and the heartaches that can happen and how short life can be for our animals. Since then, and throughout my life, we have had many dogs, each having their own funny quirks and personalities, but Shelly was special beyond any imagination and truly was the love of my life.
I started out using only acrylics but within the past few years, I have migrated toward oil and watercolor. I now enjoy using them all depending on the subject of my painting. Most of my dog and animal portraits are painting in oil but I am additionally finding I love the amazing results with painting them in watercolor.
My Two Main Influences, Dead and Alive
In the not living category, I would have to say John Singer Sargent. I selected him because of his love and masterful ability to paint portraits. I think I could gain true insight to portrait painting through his experience. I do know that he stopped painting portraits and said in one of his greatest quotes “Everytime I paint portrait I lose a friend!” I would love to hear his thoughts on why he thought that was the case.
In the living category, having a conversation with Adeline Halvorson would be exciting. Her dedication to painting pet portraits and other animals coupled with her dedication and her lifetime of practice is amazing.
The Colors Of My World
Do I love the many tones of color a beautiful sunset has to offer? Do I love the effervescent blue and green hues of the ocean? Do I love the sensations on the eye as a result of the way an object reflects or emits light? I would have to say yes, yes and yes! These make up all, along with many more, my favorite colors and what inspires me to regularly put my paintbrush to the canvas.