The Many Layers of Me and My Art: Who is Amelia Furman? My Story (Part 2)
Artists tend to have really great biographies filled with drama, risk-taking, epic failure, roller coaster mood swings and serendipitous success. Well, I hate to ruin it for you, but I’m actually pretty normal. My mother always used to joke with me that I was far too normal to be an artist. Regardless of the lack of sensation to my story, it is MY story and it plays a very large part in my work and how I came to be an artist in the first place.
I grew up in rural, Pennsylvania amidst farmlands, orchards and middle class-conservative families. From the time I was around 4-5, I started to take a keen interest in drawing and my parents did their best to keep me well stocked with sketchbooks and colored pencils. My parents further encouraged my artistic talent my enrolling me in private lessons from the time I started fifth grade. These continued until I graduated high school. I worked primarily in watercolor, mainly because I was told it was the hardest art medium to master...I like a challenge and you should never tell me I can’t do something…. This training in traditional watercolor influenced every other artistic medium I’ve touched since.
I pursued art classes in highschool and was fortunate enough to attend the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts during my junior year. This helped to affirm my desire to pursue an art degree in college. I attended a Christian, liberal arts college in Indiana and studied vigorously for four years. Meaning, I left the art building to eat and sleep, occasionally. That’s it. My classes introduced me to so many new forms of art and materials; I soaked in as much as I could. I gained a BS in printmaking, painting and illustration. I thought I was set...ready to wow the world with my amazing talent.
Then, reality set in. Apparently, I wasn’t the next Warhol, Andrew Wyeth, or Norman Rockwell. People did not come flocking to my Philadelphia apartment offering me illustration jobs or solo shows. My plan after school was to illustrate children’s books, but after much floundering and fiddling, I realized my portfolio of work didn’t support this venture nor did I have the passion to rework my collection. Instead, I started to find venues to show my work...coffee shops, churches and eventually a couple of boutiques and small galleries. I found that I really enjoyed art openings and interacting with people about my work. Hmmm. Maybe there was something to this.
After marrying my highschool sweetheart a year after graduating, we moved to the Philadelphia suburbs and I took on a job at a local cooperative grocery shop that allowed me to use my graphic design skills and hone my marketing skills. This job may have seemed like a detour in my path as an artist, but in fact, it was instrumental in teaching me aspects of an art career I hadn’t picked up in college.
It was during this time at the grocery store that I stumbled upon my mixed media techniques that are now the basis for my work (that’s a great story I’ll have to share in another post). All the while I was working part time, I was experimenting and spending time with other more seasoned artists, attending a monthly critique group in West Chester, PA. These critique sessions, however terrifying, were absolutely paramount to my development as an artist. It was this time with other professionals that moved me from a wondering, insecure artist-wannabe to a confident, risk-taking professional.
I started participating in art festivals in the area and started to build a following.
I took some time to have two children and they have definitely slowed my career advancement, but have given me something much more valuable….a deeper sense of love, grace, kindness, patience, persistence, and humility. To advance in my career without having learned these things (and I’m still learning), would be hollow and in the end, very sad.
So, that brings me to where I am today. I’ve relocated to Colorado with my family after falling under its enchantment 4 years ago and I now have majestic mountains and rolling grasslands to paint along with the lush green forests and valleys of Pennsylvania. Our world continues to widen as we travel and I’m sure that my collection of work will follow suite.
It has been an journey. One I never could have anticipated, but when do we ever have lives that work out according to our small, finite plans? What fun is that? I have loved looking back and seeing a larger hand at work...one strategically placing people, events and places in my life so that I would get to where I am now. Who knows what the next ten years hold. This story is not over yet. I look forward to journeying on to see what is next.
What part of my journey resonates with you? Why? I would love to hear about your own story and how it has been woven together. Feel free to share in the comments.