During the Great Depression

I was fortunate to grow up with six sisters on 66 acres in Rockfall, Connecticut. I often wandered all day through the woods and fields, discovering the natural beauty that surrounded me. I learned to immerse myself in the changing seasons, not only the endless patterns and colors of Mother Nature’s palette, but also the natural and man-made sounds which transformed into designs in my mind. I remember, for example, the sound of the electric wires humming in the frigid, early mornings, as I waited for the school bus. Later in the day, I tried to visually interpret these sounds into colors and designs on paper. Color fascinated me with the play of light, and to this day this interplay is a major influence in all of my work.

We All Share the Same Sky

by Teddi Shattuck

In spite of the economic challenges of the day and coming from a large family, we were blessed with parents who encouraged each of us in our goals. One of my favorite Christmas gifts of childhood was my first small black box of water colors. It was truly Pandora’s box, introducing me to the magic, mystery, and discovery of color. I kept the paint box long after the colors were gone. Color, design, and patterns became the magical ingredients that have mesmerized me for hours ever since.

After high school I was thrilled to be accepted into Rhode Island School of Design. For the next two years, an entire new world opened to me. Sadly, for financial reasons, I was unable to complete my degree. The exposure and knowledge I gained, however, have stayed with me all my life.

Marriage took me to Atlanta, and “30-too-long-years” later divorce took me to California to join my four children who migrated there. Three of my children enjoy successful careers in the arts: My son Dwayne is an accomplished artist and an award-winning producer for the hit TV series, “Mad Men.” My daughter Shari is a successful actress as well as a critically acclaimed author, and my daughter Stephanie has a rewarding career teaching art. My youngest daughter, Shawna, has a fulfilling career in family counseling.

As a travel agent and an intrepid explorer, I have traveled to over 100 countries, often for extended stays. I have used a pencil or paints to document my journeys and to share them with others. Painting is my passion, but it is also a language I use to communicate my experiences and impressions of people, places, nature, and other cultures.

I believe that one of the most effective methods of diplomacy and problem-solving in the world is through one-on-one human interactions. Blessed with the ability to travel, I strive to be a goodwill ambassador, creating lasting friendships and tangible pieces of art as I go. Additionally, creating art is part of my cathartic process — it is both a way of depicting the spiritual essence of my journey, as well as a visual reminder of my travels through life. I am profoundly influenced by stimulating new environments. I revel in the scents, the dissonant sounds, the myriad faces, and fantastic happenings. In response to such intense sensory input, I feel compelled to put pen or paint to paper to capture these feelings and emotions. In this heightened state of total immersion in the creative mind I lose all sense of time, and it often evokes feelings I did not know I had. Pouring color after color onto canvas or paper, deeply lost in the work, I never know where the work will take me, nor the results; but the work itself guides me forward.

Teddi painting in Egypt. To view her painting "Nile, 2010,"
move your cursor over the image.

One of my favorite destinations is Egypt. Recently I was invited to return to paint a mural at a school in El Qusair on the Red Sea. This ancient town was once a major port for pilgrims making the dangerous crossing to Mecca. Centuries later it became a mining town, and today it’s a sleepy forgotten seaside village. The mural covers a 20-foot wall, depicting many endangered African animals, such as an elephant, zebra, rhinoceros, lion, and a variety of birds. It was designed to educate children about African animals in need of protection. I enjoyed watching the delight and wonder in their faces as the animals appeared. I do not speak Arabic, nor they English, but pictures transcend language barriers.

I often thought when I was younger that when I retired I would have plenty of time to paint and pursue all the things I wanted to do. At 76, however, I am busier and more creative than ever before! I live in California in Burbank Senior Artists Colony. One of the things I appreciate about living here is having an art studio accessible 24/7, as it allows me to work late at night in a safe place. The camaraderie and the sharing of ideas and critiques are all conducive to a productive work environment. While living here I have discovered my love of writing. In five years, I have written three plays, all of which have been performed in our in-house theater.

I mentor and work at a school for at-risk kids. They are my inspiration. Most have had horrible life experiences, and we try to help them express their feeling and anger through art. Many are very gifted, and just being with them as someone who cares and shares inspires me. Our joint projects have included a film written and filmed with our help, Claymation, and various art projects. I see this raw talent and try to nurture their efforts, giving them guidance; but I receive so much more than I give.

In between creative projects, I still travel. My next trip will be an eco-adventure tour of Dutch Guiana (Surinam). I have been blessed with a life of boundless joy, colored by every hue in the rainbow.

When it is time for me to leave this earth, I will ask God to put a paint brush in my hand so I can paint rainbows across the sky. We all share the same sky.

Teddi Shattuck studied art at Rhode Island School of Design, Georgia State, University of Georgia Studies Abroad in Cortona, Italy, Glendale College Studies Abroad in Prague, Czech Republic, and with private teachers. With an extensive background in art history and as an avid traveler, her journeys to over 100 countries profoundly influence her work. Teddi’s paintings are in many corporate and private collections throughout the world. She lives at Burbank Senior Artist Colony in Burbank, CA. She can be reached at tega5@aol.com.