Marieta's Retirement Ramblings

Making something good even better – creating a book of Mom’s drawings and paintings


Starting mid-December and while I’ve been working on my mother’s memoirs, I have also been working on a Shutterfly photo book of Mom’s artistic creations. For several years after she retired she took art lessons from a local professional, Doris Currier. (Doris’s husband, Dick, is also a distant relative.) Anyway, Mom started with pastels and eventually moved on to acrylics.

A couple years ago I got the idea of photographing as many of her pictures as I could find and creating some kind of photo book. Since only one person can have one of her original pictures, I felt a book would be an ideal way to share her work with all family members. Shutterfly is the company I’ve worked with on other projects, so it was natural that I would look at their format for this book.

When we decided to move her to a smaller apartment at the end of December, I knew this was my best opportunity to get the project rolling before even more of her pictures were distributed to family members. Dave and I set about to find as many of the pictures as we could. We photographed everything in Mom’s old apartment and we photographed what my sister had and what we had.

Recovering misplaced picture. Next Dave and I made a trip to the Warren County Historical Society because I knew that she had given them one of her pictures. We happened to pick a Saturday morning when the board was meeting, which turned out to be a stroke of luck. We looked around the entire historical building and did NOT find the picture. However, what we found was a vastly improved set of displays depicting our local history. It had been several years since we had wandered through their exhibits and we were quite impressed! Anyway, we explained our situation to the board and they promised to follow up. On Monday morning I received a call and they had found the picture! It had been put in a back corner of a closet, not realizing what it was. When Dave and I returned to the building the following Saturday, the picture was prominently displayed in the library where she had been librarian for ten years! (We will donate one of these Shutterfly photo books to the library.)

Discovering another picture. This last weekend we visited my brother in South Sioux City and photographed what he had. It wasn’t until I was processing the photographs when we got home that I discovered that he and his wife have one more picture than I thought they had. So, this required some rejuvenation in the format of the book that needs an even number of pages.

Book format. Except for one page, I have only put one picture on a page. The exception is a page that includes the only two portraits that Mom drew and they are of my two nieces. They fit very nicely on the same page and it just seemed natural to put them together. Otherwise, one picture per page. I have used a black background on all pages. This highlights the pictures. I have titled and numbered each picture and the titles and numbers are referenced in the table of contents. I have also included the size of each picture and its medium: acrylic, pastel, charcoal on the page with the picture. I put a photograph of her on the title page with a brief explanation of her life as an artist. I put her favorite picture on the front cover and again on the first page of the book. I sprinkled her best pictures throughout the book and concluded with a particularly beautiful picture.

Getting another opinion. Yesterday I thought I had the book finished. I had checked spelling, as well as caption and photo alignments and double checked the titles of the pictures with the titles listed in the table of contents. But I decided to contact our oldest son to have him look at the book. He is our art connoisseur. Since we are ordering multiple copies of the book and since each copy will be quite expensive (over $50), I wanted his eyes to see the book and his thoughts about the format. I primarily wanted to be sure I hadn’t missed something. So he came over last evening. The resulting benefits were huge.

First, he didn’t like the picture of her pastel pencils on the title page along with the photograph of Mom. OK, I can deal with that. I will move the photograph of her pastel pencils to the back cover. Then, he explained to me that artists’ work is generally divided into periods, so books usually reflect this. Well, we don’t have dates for most of Mom’s pictures, nor do we have the order in which she drew/painted them. So, he suggested that I put the pictures of people together, the still lifes together, and pictures of similar places together. I had generally done that, but not to the extent that he was suggesting. I am so glad I asked for his thoughts; his suggestions were worthy of taking a second look at the entire book.

Finding still another picture. Then, as nearly a side note, he and his wife asked, do you want the other one or two pictures that we have at our house? What? You have more pictures that I didn’t know about? Yes, they had two more pictures! I was flabbergasted! I had no idea that two more pictures were so close at hand, and were almost missed for this book!

Dave went over to their house, brought back the pictures and photographed them, and they will be added to the book.

I now feel confident that this book will be as good as it can be, once I rearrange many of the pictures and include the newly found ones. Total of 55 pictures of my mother’s art work.