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The "Art" of Becoming

I am reposting a Sunday column from a decade ago, one I randomly came across. It was written with a bit of melancholy, melancholy for times gone by, times that held my youth, but also, held more care, more attention to what was actually real. Ten years later and all I write of is amplified... paints and brushes are bought through online warehouses or huge stores where nearly everything is made in China; there are no Mrs. Renodets there to help you, to share knowledge, to propel, just impersonal "stuff". Anyway, it is slanted towards art and the moments and people that inspire.

When I drive down Main Street towards Live Oak School, I always look for the exact spot where The Cottage used to be, where Mrs. Renoudet used to be. That little wooden house, a cottage, was a wonderland for me; it is where I discovered how much I loved the things that made art. I was recently told by her daughter, Margie, that the house was her great grandmother’s on her dad’s side and her mom, Mrs. Renoudet, opened The Cottage in the late sixties. Well, that was perfect timing for me – a child of the 60s, someone who loved the natural world, Lennon, van Gogh and peace was about to discover the wonderful world of art and integrate it all and forever be a part of that harmony.

I wish I could remember the exact first time I walked in and heard the jingle from the old wooden door behind me and the whisper inside my head that told me this was where the expression of my art would begin. I knew then, I could go beyond No. 2 pencil sketches and dime store watercolors; here, I could find real drawing pencils and fluid paints I could mix, everything changed.

I remember more of a feeling than the lay out of this little shop. The doors were left open sometimes in the spring when the weather was perfect .Sometimes I would park my mom’s oversized Mercury behind the store and go through the back door up the old wooden steps. I would go past the antique windows and doors that lined the back porch and past the little room on the right, a personal space where Mrs. Renoudet and her daughter created things and had coffee. Once inside, every room had something to discover and something that stirred me.

I believe that the soul of an artist is always there but many times the art does not become apparent because of environmental reasons but when it does there is usually a catalyst, something or someone that brings it out. For me, my parents are the two people that noticed my interest and nurtured it; I give all of the credit for my love of the arts to them, but those little moments at the cottage nudged me along also. It was there in that place with Mrs. Renoudet, small and pretty and always there with answers to my questions and always given with a smile. I swear I can still see how she gingerly put my little purchase in a small brown bag and folded the top, thanking me as she went.

My daughter is a painter and, unfortunately, we are at the mercy of the big chain stores and on line ordering for paints. Elizabeth will not know this feeling I describe, she will not create a memory of going into a place that was made for the love of art, instead she will only know a place that was created to sell in volume. Like most everything today, people are directed more by money than soul, so those details, those memories, will not be.

I wanted to mention how wonderful those days of retail were in New Iberia, those days of personal attention and quality products, those days of shopping in a place where the doors were propped open with an iron Victorian doorstop in early spring and fall when the air was light and fragrant with Sweet Olive and the owner was there and you felt you got a lot more than what was in the bag when you left.

“It’s hard to explain how a few precious things seem to follow throughout all our lives” (Return to Pooh Corner – Kenny Logins). Thanks Mrs. Renoudet.

Happy Easter, Good Yontif, and sabai di pi mai April 4, 2012

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