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Monday, November 22, 2010

Welcome back to Alaskan artist, Jeanne Young.

Have you heard the name Jeanne Young?  In Alaskan art circles, she is a returning force and a name to be reckoned with. Having taken a three year sabbatical from the public scene, Jeanne Young is back—full-strength!  Don’t think that this woman’s been eating bonbons and watching soaps, either.  Her arsenal is full of originals and her painting skills have been honed to razor sharp.
Getting to this place has been blood, sweat, and tears.  Kind of gory.  But Jeanne thrives on adventure.  Her life has been full of it. As a small child, Jeanne remembers exploring Southeast Alaska.  Her father worked in logging camps, moving his family to Wrangell, Petersburg, and other tiny towns in the region.  Jeanne’s memories are vivid and colorful of this period of her life.  One time, while living in an abandoned ice cream parlor, her dad shot a bear, brought it into the house, and proceeded to skin it out on the living room floor!
By eight years old, Jeanne’s family had moved to Oregon.  It was in this timeframe that she started to paint scenes of wildlife copied from books around her house. Her dad encouraged her abilities, helping her to see the importance of working hard at her talents.  It became a habit for her to carry a paintbrush and paints in her backpack, wherever she went. Jeanne loved to paint and would use any allowable surface including her high school friends’ arms.  In an effort to channel her passion, one of Jeanne’s teachers strongly recommended she take a correspondence art class. 
Graduating at 17, Jeanne started working at her grandparent’s trucking company, managing the drivers and deliveries department.  Her passion to paint still very much alive, she would use her paychecks to pay for classes.  In 1992, she was able to take her first oil-painting class, offered by the local retirement home.  Undaunted by the age of her classmates, Jeanne enjoyed every minute.
Spurred on by her great memories of the area, newly-married Jeanne and her husband moved to Southeast Alaska in 1994.  He took a job, and she set up house in an ancient mobile home in a Hoonah logging camp.  Jeanne took classes from local artist, Carol Howald. She painted weekly, sometimes out in the elements.  The adventure was always heightened when the occasional bear came along to admire her work.   Fishing out on the waters of the Inside Passage, was a favorite pastime that Jeanne and her husband enjoyed together.  Even being 8 months pregnant with their first child, did not slow her down in her quest to live life to the fullest.  Jeanne remembers being out on the ocean in their skiff, when a storm blew up.  Through the cool-headed efforts of her husband, they were able to make it to land.
Finally, in 2000, due to Clinton’s Logging Act, the logging camps were shut down and her husband had to look for work elsewhere.  They moved their family, now numbering four, back to Oregon.  Always pushing herself, Jeanne signed up for painting classes at the community college.  Here she was under the tutorage of well-known artist, Zeke Victorio Rivera. 
Not too long after, her husband landed a job in Naknek, Alaska, a little town in the Bristol Bay area.  While pregnant with their third child, Jeanne and her husband packed and headed North again.  This time to stay.  Jeanne started right in on her two favorite hobbies: fishing and painting! She settled in to working around-the-clock at their subsistence fishing nets, raising her 3 children, and painting the area.  Bugs, bears, rain, sand, wind, tides, and sometimes a combination of these, were things she and her kids dealt with while painting out on the banks of the Naknek River.  Hours of painting in the elements paid off, however. The King Salmon airport agreed to display her artwork.  She started setting up a booth at the local fairs. The feedback was good; her paintings started to sell.  People liked seeing their town and themselves in art form. 
It was then that Jeanne heard about a fantastic opportunity--an art class in Seattle, hosted by Tony Ryder.  She knew she had to take it.  But the cost of the class and airline ticket was daunting.  With the help of some friends, Jeanne put together a local art show to earn the money.  The community support was overwhelming, and one month later, she was able to attend the class.  It was a turning point in Jeanne’s art career.  A few months later, she was able to host an art show in Homer, Alaska.
Since then, she has had her fourth child, making it advantageous for her to take a break from marketing her work.  Holding on to the values her dad taught her, she has stayed focused and driven in her efforts to be her best. 
For that we can be thankful.  Her pieces can be enjoyed in various galleries around the state, online at, and at upcoming art shows.
In fact, you can join me in welcoming Jeanne Young on December 3rd for the Anchorage’s Gallery Walk First Friday.  Light refreshments, wine, and fabulous art will be served from 5:30 to 8:00pm at The Snow City CafĂ© on 4th and L St.   Her work will continue to be displayed at this location, for the entire month of December.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The struggle to "Be Real"

I have often wondered why some people can’t look others in the eye.  Or, why for years, I couldn’t either.  It’s not like we have a culture that stresses lowering the eyes out of respect.  For a long time, I figured it was because I was hiding some deep, dark secret.  Some great sin I’d committed.  What did I do wrong?  What was I hiding?  Digging for unknown crimes is a great way to invite trouble to your party, not solve the problem.
So why do we avoid eye contact?  Why do we feel the need to explain ourselves to certain people?  Or, say we have a difference with someone. Why does confrontation overly intimidate us?  I think that we are trying to hide what’s inside of us—our real side.  Not because it’s bad, maybe, but because we perceive it to not be enough.  It does not meet our or someone else’s expectations.  Sometimes we put expectations on ourselves.  But mostly, we care too much what others think.  We are afraid to rock the boat.
Excerpt from "Keep it Simple: Be Superficial."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Writing "Foods" and Secret Ingredients

Sometimes foods (or drinks) can be an excellent catalyst for the creative writing juices.  Either way, a secret ingredient always comes in handy.   When I want to knuckle down and get some work done, I have a whole little ritual to help me get that done in style! 
My first step is to steep a hot cup of herbal fruit tea, adding a generous spoonful of honey from our bees.  Chocolate or a small amount of some other comfort food is good, too.  After my tea is ready, I get a notebook and pencil and settle into my favorite chair.  My tea is sitting on the end table next to me, and my pencil is poised for action. 
The secret ingredient is still missing, however.  I really need a kid!  My children are my secret ingredient!  At least, it's more fun with them in the process and they feel special, too. 
If I'm writing a book of adventure and knights, I want the expertise of my 7 year old boy.  But, let's say that sparkly, whimsical feeling is in the air, my little girl is just the ticket. She helped me create the soon-to-be-published "Fairy Bunny" series.  Thankfully, I have one more ace-in-the-hole. My oldest son always has a fresh idea when I'm stuck half-way through a story.  He can "see" where a story is headed and can jumpstart that process for me. 
At first, my children were an obstacle to my writing aspirations.  Now, I wouldn't want to take that journey without them.