Today's post will be a rather difficult one to write. Yesterday I received the terrible news that my friend and mentor Terrye French passed away on Thursday. I have never met Terrye personally, but she has been such a wonderfully positive influence on my life for so long that my heart is filled with sadness. What a devastating loss for not only the painting world, but the world in general.
Terrye was the core and inspiration of the Painting With Friends group that I was privileged to be accepted into last year. Many people did not understand what Painting with Friends was or how it worked. But in simple terms, Terrye would draw pencil sketches and they would be distributed to different designers within the group, and the designer was encouraged to 'run' with the design and take it anywhere their heart lead them and develop the design into a pattern. The resulting patterns were then to be sold under the Painting With Friends name and everyone involved would benefit from the resulting projects.
I don't know how many designers were involved in the program, but at any given time there were anywhere from twenty or more. It was truly a wonderful group to be a part of.
"Why would Terrye want to do this?" you may ask. The reason was simple. Terrye had so many ideas and so much talent and she loved sharing her ideas with her friends. All she wanted to do was create and inspire others to do the same. Besides being talented, she had a heart of gold and I believe one of her greatest joys in life was seeing others enjoy her designs. There just weren't enough hours in the day to implement them all and by distributing them to others to develop and share, she not only provided more joy than she could on her own, but she also helped other designers get their names out and get recognition and grow their own personal businesses.
In this day of cut throat business practices, Terrye was the exception. Her goal was not to advance herself, but to share her love of painting and joy of life with others. I have never met a person who gave so freely of herself just for the joy of giving. She has my greatest admiration.
In the short time that I worked with the Painting With Friends group (just over a year now) I have come to love and respect Terrye even more than I had already. While I loved to paint, I usually painted things that were more realistic. I needed a subject in front of me and it was difficult for me to come up with my own ideas for whimsical and cute patterns. I was always drawn to Terrye's work and style. The cute, disproportions of the Prim characters were both charming and full of joy. They always made me smile.
I have quite a large library of designs that I purchased from Terrye, and I always have found myself drawn to her work. One of the first of her designs that I painted were these silly little Halloween cat ornament that I made for my daughter.
Every time I see them, I just smile! I also loved her Harvest Pull Toy project which has eight autumn characters. My set is still displayed in my kitchen:
I always admired her vision and her style and her ability to evoke joy and happiness through her designs.
But what I admired most about Terrye was the way she treated others. She was kind, gentle and loved creating with a passion that one rarely sees. In this world of creating for profit, Terrye was the exception. I believe that her main purpose here in our world was to share her gift and love of art, and encourage others to do the same. I have never known anyone who has given so unselfishly to so many – just for the sake of giving. I am sure that there are thousands of others who feel the same as I do about her.
I was so saddened this summer when I heard of her illness. She was so young and energetic and it was a shock for all of us to hear of her stroke. We were all so hopeful that she would recover fully and once again be drawing and painting and doing the things she loved.
But things have been quiet of late, and I had not heard much from her. I began worrying that things weren't going as well as one hoped, but I didn't feel close enough to ask or intrude. I feel simply devastated that Terrye has lost her fight. It is such a great loss to us all.
I am getting to the age where things like this happen more frequently than they used to. This year alone, there have been several who were close to me or peers has passed away. My friend Dirk passed away suddenly. As did my best friend of 40 years' husband. And of course, Keith's father, whom I loved very much. It has been a sharp reminder to me that our time here is short and we need to appreciate each and every moment of every day and live our lives to the fullest. For we won't know what tomorrow will bring.
I am so grateful for knowing Terrye – even from a distance. For she not only brought joy and smiles to my life, as she did with so many others, but she also brought kindness, compassion, passion for creating, and of course – inspiration. She had a way of making each of us feel special and loved and her faith in us gave us a feeling of confidence and helped us feel better about our own abilities. What an incredible teacher she was.
While she is no longer in this world with us, I do feel she will live on through her artwork and also through those of us who have learned from her. The lessons she taught us by her own example were not those that you learn from a book or from paper, but from example. Lessons of sharing, teaching and following your dream. Lessons of treating others with kindness and fairness. Lessons of loving what you do with such a passion, that you want to share all you know with all you meet.
I can't imagine the incredible loss that Terrye's family must be feeling. I extend my deepest condolences to them. I hope they realize just how deeply that Terrye impacted so many people. For myself, she will always be one of my mentors and teachers. Every time I see or paint one of her designs, I will remember her kind nature, incredible talent and wonderful inspiration that she extended to not only me, but to thousands of others. She filled so many lives with joy and will always be remembered with love and affection.
I came across this poem by Mary Elizabeth Frey that I wanted to share today. When I read it, I thought of Terrye and I think she may have wanted to be remembered in that way:
Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
I'd like to think that wherever Terrye is now, she is busy painting and inspiring and making things just a bit more colorful.
Thank you, Terrye. You will always be my friend. I truly loved you.
-- Designer/Artist/Teacher. Owner of Sheila Landry Designs (http://www.sheilalandrydesigns.com) Scroll saw, wood working and painting patterns and surfaces. "Knowledge is Power"