I don't have to think twice about the answer to this question. The single most inspirational and influential art teacher I have known is Lola Owen, my mother. She was my first oil painting teacher at the age of 16, teaching me how to mix and apply paint to canvas at our kitchen table. The thing that is most inspiring about her is her journey into the arts.
Lola was a stay at home mom, raising 5 daughters while dad worked to support us. Her creative skills helped to keep the modest income my dad made balanced. She sewed most of our clothes, designed and created our Christmas ornaments, made clothes for our dolls and created toys for us to play with. She took flower arranging and cake decorating classes at night, often bringing home amazing creations. Some of her cakes were so beautiful and took her such a long time to make it pained her to see us devour them in minutes. Mom spent a lot of time teaching us everything she learned in those classes. Each of my sisters and I learned the things that interested us. I enjoyed the sewing and flower arranging more than the cake decorating.
In 1974 our family moved to Kings Beach which is on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, I was 15 at the time. The move created a few problems for our family. For some of us, the over active out of control teenage girls, it meant a new school, meeting new people and creating new friendships. For my parents it meant new jobs, building a new home and the never ending battle of controlling out of control teenage girls. Learning a whole new way of life was very challenging. All of us had to much time on our hands and some of us got into trouble quite often. Lola (mom) solved this problem for herself by taking up oil painting. The classes were held in a back room of a gift shop on the other side of the lake, a hour drive from where we lived. She commuted to the South Shore every week, even during big snow storms. When she brought home her first painting, a 24 x 36 Seascape, we were all amazed. My father, at first, thought she had purchased the painting. It took a bit of convincing to get dad to realize she had in fact painted it.
After a year of commuting to class and with a growing inventory of paintings, the need to find a place to display all the fine work Lola created became another problem. There were no galleries on the North Shore area of Tahoe at the time. My father decided to share a small space at the Sheet Metal shop he owned and operated. Together they remodeled the garage and Lakeside Gallery was born. The legacy of mom's gallery didn't stop there, it grew! She was approached by an enthusiastic customer wanting to take lessons from her. The woman's persistence finally convinced Lola to take a chance at becoming her teacher. At first, mom was scared to death, feeling she was to new to the world of art to be of any use to someone else. It didn't take long, however, for her special teaching style to became a success and many more students began to arrive. Little by little Lakeside Gallery took over Sierra Sheet Metal. first by adding a few art supplies then a classroom. As the classes grew a new need became an opportunity, framing. My father stared framing at night and on weekends for a select few. His business was literally moved out the back door and he eventually put Sierra Sheet Metal to rest, devoting all his time and energy to framing and becoming a master of the trade.
Lola was my first oil painting teacher. She taught me how to mix colors and apply the paint to canvas at our kitchen table when I was just 16. I've had many other art teachers through the years but she was the best. Her passion and love for art came through each lesson. She is a kind patient teacher, ready to answer any question asked and if she doesn't know the answer she'll find it. Mom, now in her 80's, is still teaching and inspiring her students.