Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Gretchen and Edie

I often tell people that I chose not to go to art school because I've spent my life as an Art major. My family, on both sides, has art running through the genes. So, really, I can't help myself.

I grew up with original works of art on our walls, my attention drawn to their styles, their differences. Often the youngest at family gatherings, I listened as my family noted colors, shapes, details, and compositions. From a simple walk around the neighborhood to a historic home tour to a camping trip, I naturally gravitated towards trying to see what drew my eye, seeing beauty in a seed pod, a painting, a wrought iron gate, a pattern in the sidewalk, the way the wind caused a tree to bend...

Trips to "Grandma's house" always encouraged this appreciation of beauty. Both of my Grandmother's, Edie Coffin and Gretchen Quie, were professional artists, visibly producing, growing, and challenging themselves in their work. Paintings hung on the walls and sat on easels. Handmade paper, woodblocks, illustrations, hand thrown pots, and designs for murals made my head spin in all of the creativity.

I can remember Grandma Coffin, with her easel set up on the dinning room table at the beach house. I watched her, with her watercolors and brushes, sweeping the paper with washes that suddenly became the stormy sky outside. She sat with me and showed pictures from her painting trips to other countires, the paintings in the pictures now completed and hanging on the wall or in a gallery. I sat with Grandma Coffin and her painting "buddies" listening to them discuss the effects of this color or that stroke, watching them draw the world around them. (Self-portrait Squares by Edie Coffin)

I can remember going to Minnesota to visit the Quie side of the family. Grandma Quie always had projects for us. Once we were driving home from an event and we passed a dock full of fisherman. Grandma Quie made a u-turn, drove down to the dock, and got out to ask the fishermen for a small fish. We took it home, rolled it with blue paint, and pressed it onto a piece of paper. I still have my fish print, numbered, signed and matted. (Two Men by Gretchen Quie)

These women were not weekend painters, they were artists because they were created to create. Each of them drew people's attention to a different way of seeing, to the details in a world full of interest.

The following are merely photographs, a poor attempt to capture the qulaity of the paintings themselves. Still Life by Gretchen Quie

Four Bathers by Gretchen Quie

Sketch of a woman by Gretchen Quie

Vase by Edie Coffin (a study of a pot!)

Woman by Edie Coffin

Baltimore Harbor by Edie Coffin


  1. Wow, Sarah, your grandmothers were both incredibly talented women! What a wonderful heritage and beautiful memories you have of them. And gorgeous artwork of course too. No wonder you are so talented yourself - it really is in your genes.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. Today I bought an original oil still life painting by Gretchen at a thrift store. It's called( name on back and Silver Spring address on back)" Still life with Zinnias" Jim Hennessy of College Park Md 301 706 6474 Anybody interested ?

  2. Sarah, I LOVED seeing your grandmother's paintings. My favorite is the Four Bathers--it is so full of emotion and the colors are so vibrant. I always enjoy seeing it in your home:). Thanks for the great post!

  3. I recently purchased a Christmas card with a beautiful drawing of DC on it from a thrift store in MN. It is truly wonderful to have such a beautiful piece from an amazingly talented woman artist.

    1. Rachel, I would love to see this card! Any chance you could take a picture? Sjcoffin at gmail?