Finding your Inner Artist

I come from an artistic family.  Now this is a hard thing to deal with when you are a mere mortal.  Many in my family have great skill and its intimidating.  My grandfather made his living as an artist for many years, doing scrimshaw on slate – first at Jackson Square in the French Quarter of  New Orleans, then for years he sold his works through galleries on Maui.  I was fortunate enough to have a couple of his paintings and one of his slates in our home. His original slates were from the roofs of the French Quarter though in later years he bought slates directly from the quarries.   His brother made his living for years carving wood and painting custom pieces.  I remember a King Tut wooden piece he did that looked like the top of the sarcophagus, and another he did of a mermaid as a poolside art piece.  Even their two sisters were artistic, the oldest was painting ceramics back before it was something anyone could go do, and the youngest worked with photography for years.

Now my mom has painted, sketched, done stained glass, you name it – very creative and does beautiful work.  Her brother has also earned his living as an artist and her sister was always the one who drew all kinds of wonderful things for me as a girl.  Again, as a mere mortal – very intimidating!!  On my father’s side, when I met my half sisters, one gave me a piece of art that the middle one had done.  And also some wooden pictures that our grandfather had made – he was a carpenter I believe.  Now – I am crafty.  I can crochet, I can do most crafts, I can ‘see’ how something will go together – but Im no artist.  My husband paints – how did I surround myself with art and yet have no talent??

There is one talent I do have.  Yes, I am a shopaholic.  In my defense – I am good at it!  My friend V and I have incredible ‘shopping karma’ to the point that its scary!  Before we go shopping we brainstorm on what we are really wanting – invariably we find it, at a discounted price and more!!  She once told me she wanted a huge wicker basket to put all her crocheted blankets in – and yeah – my dear friend has a LOT of blankets – many from me!  I was skeptical – she described how big it would need to be and i just didnt think it was going to happen – or at least not a good quality piece.  Lo and behold (and how often do you get to use that phrase?) there it was!  Great piece, good construction, and at a thrift store with half off!   V has moved out of state now, but I still do well in shopping, though I miss her even more.

Another friend and I went on a tea hunt one day – tea shops are not as common as they once were – so its an excursion to drive to her favorite.  I mentioned  a  little thrift store I hadn’t been to in a while and we stopped by.  I left her in the cups and saucers as I prowled around the art area.  Something caught my eye, a grey picture toward the back.  I drew it out and found myself shaking.  This was in fact a slate, with scrimshaw etched onto it, and a signature at the bottom of a Bill Christian, who in fact was my grandfather.  Looking on the back I saw his writing with the price of $25 and knew this was one of his older works from the early seventies in New Orleans.  The holes from the roofing nails had weathered and it was just incredible to hold this link from my own past.  I remember spending time in the summer with him at the quarter when I was just a little girl.  Feeding the pigeons in front of the cathedral and my favorite shop where they made handmade dolls – a very big deal to an eight year old girl!  Mom bought me an Amy doll from Little Women and I still have it somewhere.

So of course, I bought the slate.  It was half price – told you I was good – cost me all of $6 and I was almost in tears with memories as I bought it.   My grandfather has been gone for about six years now and I have many memories of him.  An artist is defined as  one such as a painter, sculptor, or writer, who is able by virtue of imagination and talent or skill to create works of aesthetic value, especially in the fine arts.  A person whose work shows exceptional creative ability or skill.  Or  one who is adept at an activity.  If you consider that shopping can be a talent then perhaps shopping is my art.  I would like to believe that I am an artist.  Makes me feel closer to the whole family.


~ by Kim on August 1, 2011.

15 Responses to “Finding your Inner Artist”

  1. I am glad to know about your grandfather. I was researching his name because I have a friend who has a slate of his. On the backside is attached a picture of him. Please email if you would like to have this for your family memories. Email me at

    • Oh thank you! That is so kind of you, but I have all of his old promotional pieces. I sure appreciate the offer and I hope that your friend enjoys the work.

  2. If you are a grandchild of scrimshaw artist William Christian please contact me about some artwork of his – Reflections of the South Seas.

  3. Hi, a friend of mine has a piece of your Grandfather’s artwork and is wanted more information about it. He bought it in 1979 in Hawaii, it is on slate and s titled “self portrait”, it has an invoice #108-0804. Any information would be appreciated. Thank you.

  4. Hi I also have a piece of his work, titled Over the Happy Waves, please contact me about it! at

  5. I belive that my wife and I met your grandfather in Mau June of 1983. He was at a gallery selling some of his slate pieces. What a fun time talking to him and listing to his stories. The piece we bought was titled LAHAINA TURKEY. According to notes on the back the slate came from a church at Punchboobd and Kapioloni streets in Honoulu, it was guilt from 1821 to 1824. It has the nail holes. The card on the back describes the ship (which was his) and an artical about him. The reg number is 00450081. We paid $450.00 aat that time and it has hung in our home ever sence. If you would like pictures of the scrmshaw, the back and the card please let me know

    • It is so nice to hear that! He did have quite a lot of stories – and he was so wonderful at telling them! I would love to see the pictures – I enjoy my memories of him very much!

  6. I appreciate all the comments and responses I have gotten about my Grandfather’s work. If you have a photo you would like to share here I would love to see and post them.

  7. Kim, what is the best way to get the pictures to you?
    I could e-mail them to you or my facebook or flicker

  8. Is anyone interested in buying some of Capt Bill”s lithographs I bought from him in Lahaina in the 1970’s?

  9. I and my lovely wife spent our HoneyMoon on Maui, we met your grandfather and spent about an hour with him. I purchase 6 litho’s from him one was a self of him in a sea hat of sorts., Papeete, and others.

    does anyone know if there is a value or market for these, they are lovely, brown ink on light brown paper, about 13 by 13, the self and also a ship are 24 by 18 or so.

  10. My parents have two of Bill Christian’s slate works. They lived near him in Hawaii for many years. around 1976. He specifically did them for my father!

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