Bicycle Messenger 1954

This is a drawing of Main Street, Hudson, Ohio, circa 1950, my hometown from the time I was one year old in 1952 till I graduated from high school in 1969 and moved to Oakland, CA to attend art school. Hudson was an idyllic place to grow up – a New England style sleepy village with a central green lined with grand old homes, shops and restaurants.  It remains a place full of friendly neighbors, ice cream socials, concerts on the green, long parades on Memorial Day and all the other happy times that can come with small town life.

Bicycle Messenger 1954

I did this drawing with an ordinary #2 school pencil on a piece of cheap copy paper. I had a few old photos to work from that I clipped alongside my makeshift easel – a book propped up in my lap leaning against the edge of my kitchen table. The drawing was an exercise in perspective for me and was done entirely freehand. As I got closer to completion, I fashioned an easel from an upside down ironing board which worked much better. Standing in front of the drawing at eye level helped me to get every roof line, doorway and window spaced correctly.

Memories of my hometown had always brought a smile to my face. Taking the time to create a detailed image of those happy times was truly restorative. It helped to soothe the dense pain of homesickness that hung on the clothesline of my soul like a soggy old blanket waiting for the sun on a cloudy day.

It was 1992. I was living in a suburb of Seattle with my x-husband and our four children. Times were bad. Really bad. I had been out of work and sick in bed for six months with a serious lung and liver disease. My x-husband was spending his days warming himself by the wall heater, flat out refusing to go out and get a job. Our 16 year old son was going to school and working two jobs to provide for the family – his three younger sisters, myself and his father.

Broke and without health insurance, I had to figure out a way to get well. I wasn’t about to die and leave the children with a poor excuse for a father. I read a few books and came up with various alternative methods for healing which included a medicinal herbal formula. It consisted of a botanical concoction that I ground together, capped up and took three times a day. In a few weeks, I began to feel better.

As soon as I could get out of bed and climb upstairs to the kitchen table, I sat down and picked up an old yellow school pencil and began to draw. I knew that creating works of art would be essential to restoring my spirit. It was the one thing that no one could take from me. Drawing gave me a surge of empowerment that equated to my very survival.

The original drawing of my hometown that I did on that cheap copy paper in 1992 has faded considerably over the years. The marvels of modern technology have enabled me to create reproductions that liven the details of the original.

Today, this drawing hangs above my desk. Whenever I look up, it lifts my outlook, beyond its perch a few feet above my head. This is what art can do.

Bicycle Messenger 1954

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About Kathleen Franks

Kathleen Franks is a writer, artist, storyteller, and community volunteer based in Berkeley, CA
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