Friday, January 6, 2012

FLASHBACK FRIDAYS #1 January 6, 2012

FLASHBACK FRIDAYS #1 (January 6, 2012)

The Best Art Career Decision I Ever Made

1979,  Here we are from left to right Jason Mathew Freitas, my youngest son who died in 1988 at the age of 20 years, my middle son Aaron Christopher Freitas, me and Mrs. Reilly and my eldest son Adam Garret Freitas.

I have been remembering and telling stories about my life as an artist and the experiences I have had both in the art field and as a woman artist for some time now. When others hear my stories and hear about the artists and people I have known, they become seriously interested, some learn what to do or what not to do and find humor in them. My experiences can inspire, teach, give hope and direction, stir emotions of anger, joy, love, and share wisdom.

Working in my studio 2011

I will be celebrating my 67th birthday next week on January 11, 2012 and with all of those years behind me, it is a difficult decision  to know just where to start. I have decided to start almost smack dab in the middle of my life when I was 34 years old, back in 1979. I have been an “artist” all of my life. It has not been just a vocation, job or profession. It has been a lifestyle chosen either consciously or unconsciously as I found myself with both the gift I was given (by God I believe) and the consistent desire to draw, paint, observe and feel emotionally about things I saw and experienced as I grew from childhood to adult. I will go back to those times in my weekly Flashback Fridays but for now I will begin at a place where I was divorced and single mother of three sons and supported us all solely on my art. Yes, that's right on my art. I taught, painted, executed portrait commissions, demonstrated my abilities, conducted workshops (which were not popular back then!) and created my living as I went along. I did not even have a brother , so raising three sons alone was the challenge of my lifetime, believe me. There was no child support back then that was being enforced and the state did not chase down the support in our fair state of Connecticut or out of the state as they now enforce it  today. So I was left to my own resourcefulness. I remember the divorce judge having no problem in pronouncing me as sole parent and provider but then he had to nerve to say “now go out and get a real job, not as an artist!” Well that was not the thing to tell me, I had to prove him wrong. I was spunky, strong minded and determined to do things my way.

I proceed to build up an art school which I called “Post Academy of Fine Art” located in Cheshire, CT where I raised my boys. It took time and many trials and errors and lots of hard work to get to the point of owning a huge old house in the town that could be a place for us to live as well as an entire floor for an art school with studios, office, supply room etc etc. I worked daily to make this happen. The town knew me and supported me in many ways  enabling me to be self sufficient and independent with my children. Back then I had to go to a woman's adviser at the local bank to apply for a mortgage. Can you imagine the looks on their faces when I said “ I am self employed, an artist and a woman alone applying for this mortgage.” The bank even had me submit a large portfolio of my work and a resume to secure this for me. Impossible today!

This school of mine had classes going 7 days a week and I hired 5 artists other than myself to teach classes. I had two lovely women who were my students who worked the office and the supply room for me. My sons were raised with artists and art students coming and going and saw the world slightly different than their classmates and their families. I remember when my son Adam was just about in third grade and I heard him talking to his buddy outside my window. His friend asked” What does your mother do, does she work?” He replied, “ No she doesn't work, she does draws and paints all day!”

After operating this art school for a few years, it grew so much that an accountant/adviser told me that I had to make a decision either to incorporate or dissolve ( I had grown too fast and too big ). I sat and cried. I did not want to run a large art school and I wanted to paint! I was teaching others to draw and paint but there was little time for me to work, grow and increase my own skills.

 My mother who was a great porcelain artist in her own right sat with me and comforted me and asked me what it was I really wanted to do? She always taught me that if there was a will, there would be a way! I just needed to figure things out for myself and for our little family.

I told my mother there was one artist I thought I needed to study with and that his work moved me and inspired me.

This artist was Daniel Greene. He was one of the original serious pastelists of our time. He had a book that I looked at over and over again and his process of drawing from the inside out to achieve a likeness was just like what I naturally did all of my life. I wanted and needed to find a way to make this happen. I needed to keep increasing my skills and better myself to continue earning the finances I needed to take care of us. My mom listened to me through all of my tears and broken emotional words. She said “ OK, how can you do this?”

Yes it is black and white photography and the kind that needs developing! This is Dan when the cigarette was almost as important as his pastel.

The first thing I did was write a letter to Daniel Greene. I heard that he was going to begin teaching serious students in Gloucester, MA for an entire summer. He had always taught at the Art Students League in NYC and I knew that would be an impossibility for me. However, I did have friends on Cape Ann Island where Rockport, Gloucester, and Annisquam are located and I could find a way to arrange something there. I remember writing this awkward letter to Daniel Green explaining that I only had enough money for 2 weeks of his classes but wanted to stay for the entire summer to benefit from his teaching. I told him I was a single parent of three boys 10, 11 and 12 and I was the sole supporter of my family. I don't know why I told him that other than I wanted to let him know just how serious I was as a woman artist and that I would have to sacrifice in order to make this happen.  I got a letter back from him that said to come and take classes and all will work out. I was so excited and hopeful and hearing from Dan in person was a sign for me. Now I had to figure out just what to do to close down my school for the summer, find a way to have each son taken care of for a month. I arranged a  revolving schedule of caretakers for them. My mom took one son, my sister and brother in law took one son and I took one son with me to Gloucester. I rented a little apartment for us in an area with a cute seaside neighborhood above a young family with a little boy and a huge dog.  The tricky part of this venture was that I had to rent out a floor of my house to pay my mortgage in CT and figure out what to do with our family pets.
We had three cats and a big Irish Setter (with my color hair) named “Mrs. Reilly”  Two cats summered at my mother's house and a cat and Mrs. Reilly came up to Gloucester with me. This was no easy feat as I packed my old station wagon with art supplies for the summer, my son and my clothing and personal things and two adequately sedated animals that were like dead weight  with their eye lids swollen shut on the 3 ½ hour drive to our summer destination and my 12 weeks of art study. The wagon was so over packed that I could only see the lower half of my tires. Off we went and life for me was never the same again. One of the best decisions I made!

Meeting Dan Greene for the first time was awesome for me. His seriousness, his discipline and his patience and skill was just what I needed. I know that he respected me for what I was doing and sacrificing to study there. I respected him for that.

I loved Dan's posture and his method of measuring and making evaluations with arm outstretched.

Here is the historical old brownstone on Pleasant St. and off Main St. in Gloucester that Dan Greene first held his summer classes in.  We loved to go on the roof for the views of the ocean, the fishing boats and the fragrances of the sea and Gorton's fishery! Sadly the church in the background burned down one day while we were in class and it was devastating to watch.

On the rooftop it is Tom Dillon and I (at top ) and Jakki Kouffman and I (below).

Dan's monitors from NYC,  Jakki Kouffman and Tom Dillon became my friends and it put a smile on my face to show them Cape Anne and the casual seaport lifestyle there. Unlike monitoring at the league in NYC, the skies, seas, ships and landscapes did not stay still as the subjects did in the portrait and figure studio. It was funny the first time I brought Tom and Jakki outdoors to Lanesville (a favorite location for my old friend, the late Michael Stoffa)  to paint boats floating at the dock and the owners moved their vessels and the subjects of our paintings were gone from view! The looks on their faces were priceless. How dare they move the models! Jakki and Tom were outstanding painters. Tom was a skillful oil painter and Jakki a one of a kind pastelist. She was and still is inventive and original. She is located now in the South West and her website is  I did some nice portraits of each of them when they each modeled for Dan's classes.

I loved to get up early in the morning go down Main St. and get a big loaf of homemade Italian bread fresh from the oven (at Virgilios) with some butter and coffee and show up for class at 8:30 to be ready to work at the easel by 9 am all day until 4pm. What a treat to spend that kind of time with a model, looking, seeing, feeling and making decisions and finding solutions for proportions, compositions, drawing lines, values and of course the one thing I needed most was to finally see Color as only I could!

I had arrived finally at the place I should be to learn what I knew I needed to know !

1979, Here we are Daniel Greene and me Claudia Post, now master pastelist and portrait painter. I knew after 12 weeks, painting in pastels, that I had to return the next year to paint in oils and study more.

Dan's classes were exciting. Sometimes as many at 45 students in his class. The anticipation of getting a good spot at an easel for a two week posing period was stressful. Sometimes if you name began at the beginning of the alphabet you chose your view of the model first. Sometimes the end of the alphabet. The students came from all over the United States and I met some good friends there. I knew if I returned the following year I would rent a house and rent out rooms to students coming in. Dan supported me and directed all inquiries to me first, especially if they needed reasonable accommodations. Oh Lord, my place was booked solid and sometimes I accidentally overbooked and Mrs. Reilly and I slept on the sofa!

more stories to come next Flashback Friday #2


  1. Thank you for sharing this lovely and inspirational story. I'm looking forward to more of your 'flashbacks'!

  2. Claudia- I love hearing your story! (and am looking forward to more!!). (and NO- I can't believe you're going to be 67 on your next birthday!)

  3. Claudia,what a wonderful adventure your life has been. I'm hooked and looking forward to hearing about your second summer in Rockport. Thanks for being so willing to share, as always! :-)