Monday, June 6, 2011

The Importance of Picking Your Friends (or Mentors) Wisely

Sometimes events or people in your life just seem to "happen" randomly and you refer to it as "fate" or just good luck.  However, I think there is much more that goes on behind the scenes of our lives that impacts us so much.  Like meeting someone and just having a connection that is very hard to describe.  That is what happened well over 6 years ago when I finally got to meet a lady that I had been visiting with via the phone for over 2 years.  I had gotten her business card from Whitman Cellars, a winery that just shouted FANTASTIC WINE not necessarily because the wine was or wasn't great- but because the owners cared enough about making their tasting room absolutely beautiful by hiring this artist to work her magic on the walls, and therefore they must also care very deeply about crafting fine wine.  This is also true about how your home reflects your values and your personality.  That is why being a wall artist and creating the  personality of the homeowner through decorative wall art is so rewarding.

My new friend, who quickly became my mentor was Donna Maiden of "Maiden Design" and as I shadowed her for the next six years on jobs around the Walla Walla, WA and Milton Freewater, OR area, my respect and admiration continued to grow and grow.  I have taken countless classes from highly respectable teachers within the industry but making sample boards is one thing.  Putting that technique to the wall atop a 20 foot scaffold, dragging 80 pound buckets of Italian Plaster up the ladder and using way too many rolls of painters blue tape to mask around wood brings on a whole new meaning to the words...wall art.

I found that Donna's love for creating art and beauty in her client's homes or in commercial settings (especially wineries) was at the top of her priority list, just below "grandkids".  She blew away the hesitation on my part to just jump right in and create, carefully guiding me along as I put to work the techniques I had been taught and then she showed me how it was done in the "real world". 

I have spent many hours with this gal and have just about split a gut laughing at her silly comments, listening to her sensitive responses when a client can't make up their mind on the personality they wish their home to take on, or just soaking in many words of wisdom.  My favorite is "smoke and mirrors".  If she did not know exactly how to achieve the finish a client wanted, she would spend hours researching, creating sample boards and asking for constructive criticism until she achieved the perfect finish for that client. 

I don't know if she really knows just how much she has affected my life or just what an inspiration she has been to me all these years.  Because of her, I have had opportunities to work with mediums I would most likely have shyed away from, she has given me the assurance within myself to tackle jobs I would have been afraid of, and she gave me the respect as an artist that I really desired and needed.  She may not be some high paid teacher but she is the best art teacher I have ever been lucky enough to tutor under.  Thank you Donna, for your friendship and your mentoring. 

These pictures are some of the projects I have worked on with her and the finishes that she lovingly creates.  As an artist, we take pride in our work but it is also very gratifying to share our knowledge, good and bad experiences, and just help other artists along in their journey.  This is also a Biblical principle found in Titus II that as women we are to teach others what we have learned.  I hope I can help others and share my knowledge along the way.  You may find that what you give away comes back two-fold and that is quite a blessing.