Footprints left behind


I wrote an article for this column a few years ago and had forgotten I wrote it. But, my daughter found it and posted it on my website. When I read the article about the language of art, I traced our footprints, which we had left behind that day in Nevada City, Calif. Floods of memories filled my heart. More than words, there was respect between two artists and three generations.
My family says I am in love with my words; maybe so. All writers are. Some words have a weekly acknowledgment. They were there on the page, we were engaged in the moment and even identified with them. The vestige of those words disappeared into a new idea for the next week’s newspaper. Spirit words will remain, but all others will be lost.
Even though I had forgotten the article, my words washed over me in a way that I will never forget. They were bathed in love, discovery and family, and they will have a lasting lifespan for generations to come.
My granddaughter, Tiffany White Dawson, and I spent an afternoon strolling through the streets with cameras and sketch pads in hand. The afternoon was planned: no agenda, no time crunch, only the expectancy of gathering ideas for future art and preserving them with photographs.
I discovered early in the day that two artists were looking differently at things. My granddaughter was looking at lines, details, texture and architectural designs.
I saw subjects, themes and stories. My mind was whirling with excitement at the many sights, people and life that were passing me by. Everything was a story to write and a painting to paint.
My gait was brisk, my mind was noisy and I felt the acceleration moving me forward. I waited for Tiffany and she took her time. As she brought up the slack, my eyes darted around for the next find. She was smelling the roses as she went by diffusing her own sweet aroma. I was smelling success in the day and leaving the heads of flowers bobbing.
I surveyed Tiffany at a short distance away. I noticed how she held her camera 2 inches away from a gnarled tree, clicking shot after shot. She discovered a crack in the sidewalk and a leaf peaking out from under a rock.
She took photos of shadows. I took photos of subjects. As different as we were and still are, we are so alike. Knowing or unknowingly, we allowed each other to be the artist God created us to be. The language of art was like a sweet fragrance between us as I discovered the artist in her that day.
At that time, she was a teenager and now she is a young married woman. She has continued with her art. Her home looks like it should be on the cover of a home and garden magazine. Will she ever be discovered? She is a very private person who lives out of the depth of her being. She gives honor to everything she touches. She moves quietly among God’s beauty, stopping to smell a flower, leaving it on the bush for another day and for someone else to enjoy.
I was always excited about my next idea and the next. I moved fast and gathered the flowers as I went, thinking how they would go into a beautiful vase and I would paint them in a still life.
From the article, I wrote: “I once read, the old are not to judge the young, but the young should be judging the old. That thought will not let me go. It makes me question my own walk as an artist and ones I missed because of my own agenda. Have I handed truth concerning the arts to the young artists? Have I encouraged them, have I given them the reins and not insisted they look at it my way? Have I taken time to meander the streets with them and let them catch their own vision about who they are and how they discover things?”
Did Tiffany discover her grandmother that day? I don’t know. She was busy enjoying life. But there might be a day when she is telling her grandchildren how she walked through the streets of Nevada City with her grandmother and with only a few words, the language of art was between us. And, in those few words volumes were written on our hearts.
My granddaughter posted these words about me in Facebook: “I wanted to take a moment to thank someone who has been a lifelong inspiration to me, Betty Slade. I am so blessed to have an amazing artist as a grandmother. Although we live in different states, she has taught me to paint and showed me how to make a canvas out of anything and everything. Her passion for Jesus and sharing in relationships is truly amazing. She has shown me that it’s never too late to learn something new or make a difference.
“I will be forever grateful for all you have shared with me as a fellow artist and a beautiful soul. I love you Grandma.”
The final brushstroke: Thank you for indulging me. Yes, her words made my day. The language of art is not confined to words but spoken through beauty. I am now writing, she is still painting, and her canvas encompasses designing movie sets and home décor. Also, she is a wedding planner.
If you wish to read more about the language of art, go to Send any comments to