An Early Influence Feb 6, 2010

One of the reasons I am grateful for the path I've chosen is due to the imagination of my parents. In 1971, my father brought home for my mother this baby monkey. It was purchased straight out of the incubator, from Peggy Woods Pet Store in Burbank.

For the next 38 years she would grace our lives as my little sister. My Dad named her, "Siwa", which is Swahili for, "Gorilla". (My father's humor was dry as the Sahara Desert).

My Mom was given an opportunity of a lifetime; to raise this wild animal not only as a pet, but as a daughter. Siwa replaced me as the Baby of the Family, and it would be like having a brilliant three year old in our lives, for almost four decades, which sometimes seemed like forever.

No matter where I would go in life, or what I would do, I would always have this little creature in my background. Now where it would influence me may not be so obvious to my collectors or appreciators, but there were many times I would sit drawing and painting my school projects, in the same room as Siwa. She would always be there, inside her indoor cage; moving around, looking at me, talking, screaming, keeping a watchful eye on what I was doing.

There were occasions when she would escape from her cage, (this is an adventure I will write about later), and she would make her way over on to my drawing table, and demonstrate to her big brother, just how to draw correctly, right on my artwork. Other times we would let her out for an evening, to run around and frolic with our cat, "Miss Kitty", and we would give her a pad of paper with a pencil, pen, or crayon. She would immediately start to paint or scribble.

These scribbles looked mostly like hash marks; general gestures of dynamic pencil strokes. In retrospect, they were quite brilliant and expressive, and it was obvious she enjoyed this creative process. Oh yeah, this was an outlet for her primal instincts. I could learn from her. This taught me not only how to relate animals, but how to make spontaneous marks on a piece of paper and turn them into an imagination painting.

It also helped me to relate to Abstract artists. I now understand a little more about the abstract expressionist, Jackson Pollock, and his depth of perception realized through the layering of paint dripped on canvas. Much like Picasso, he was trying to let lose the creativity of the child within, and through his metier, scribbling was one way to begin!

Photo: Siwa and Betty Lee Stein, 1985