I suffered a personal loss today. And the world suffered the loss of one more artist.
My grandmother, Ethel, was an artist.
She wasn’t a Georgia O’Keefe or a Grandma Moses. She merely painted for herself, her friends and local art shows her whole life. She garnered several first place and honorable mentions at local shows and growing up, my parents’ home was filled with her artwork.
She spent countless hours sitting with me as a child teaching me how to ‘draw’ and always had fresh pencils, paints and paper ready and waiting upon our visits for me, my sisters and my cousins to play with. I couldn’t wait to visit her, spend time with her and draw and paint to my hearts’ content.
She never stopped painting until she simply couldn’t do it anymore… and that was just a year ago at age 96. Just this year, 2008, her work was included in the Hyatt Classic Residence Artist Series.
She was married to my grandfather, Sol Sweet for over 60 years (he passed away in 1990 at age 85) and she was very close to her two sons, my uncle Bob and my father Larry, as well as her daughters-in-law and her 5 granddaughters and her great grandchildren.
She was Yoda-like in her wisdom. She spoke gently, but deliberately, and never judged people or was even the slightest bit catty. I don’t think she ever once uttered anything remotely close to sarcasm. She often referred to her five granddaughters as ‘cookie’ or ‘dolly’.
Always patient and kind, she made killer brownies and potato salad. She was the grandma who snuck me to the mall at age 13 to get my ears pierced, despite my dad’s insistence that I not ‘put holes in my ears.’
Despite being financially comfortable, she was never showy. She was modest in her dress and jewelry and didn’t believe in spending money recklessly. She could have worn designer clothes and drove fancy cars, but she wasn’t comfortable with that.
She liked beer, sourdough and candied ginger. She didn’t like pictures of herself and bizarrely, never had any photos of herself in her homes.
Of all my family, she was the animal lover, the one who thoughtfully always asked about my dog (being her only granddaughter who didn’t have children).
Being an ‘artist’ for a living made me feel a special kinship with her. But she was the type of woman who made each of her children and grandchildren feel that way. As if they each had a unique personal bond with her.
As an artist, she actually began her career doing advertising illustrations for department stores that ran in newspapers, so you could say she was the first ‘art director’ I ever knew.
She painted with oils and acrylics as well and in her later years became an adept water colorist.
As she aged, she continued to send me handmade cards for my birthday and the holidays. Even last year, I received a handmade hand painted birthday card:
Incredibly talented until her final days, my gran even taught watercolor at her Senior Living home until her early 90s. And her work, shown below, was used on holiday cards printed by Hyatt Senior Residence at La Jolla.
I will forever have a hole in my heart now.
She will be greatly missed. And the world will be a little less colorful.