Sibling Rivalry

I loved my brother and respected his talents. But…of all the rocks I’ve painted, people like the one with his cartoon character on it most. It’s almost as if he’s back. I hear our art teacher saying to me, “Why are you always hanging around the art room? You don’t have any talent.”

That is not true.

My mom, “You’re the writer, Kirk’s the artist.” That was that, pure and simple. My reaction against this was instantaneous and visceral. Art is not just ONE thing.

For the most part — between us — my brother and I didn’t have any issues over this. Our work was very different AND different people liked his work from those who liked mine. My brother liked my work. In fact, he was my biggest cheerleader — up to a point.

When my work sold, paintings sold, he wasn’t too happy. He should have been since he was always hitting me up for money, but… He got over it. “You’re an abstract expressionist,” he said.

I had to look that up.

“The thing about your paintings, Martha Ann, is they’re not on the public pulse.” That was true.

I have never had any interest in drawing comic strips. I don’t enjoy them very much and to draw the same thing over and over again in order to advance a narrative (that’s the new way to say “tell a story”) seemed tedious. Why not just write the damned thing? But my brother’s comics were hilarious. I have a decent sense of humor it’s more situational than it is a world view.

Still, my brother wanted to do conventional paintings and he did some. I felt his imagination kind of died in that kind of work, but he was hoping to sell them for big bucks.

That led my grandma to say that which was never to be spoken, “Kirk’s a cartoonist. I think Martha Ann is the fine artist in the family.”

My mother’s face paled. Kirk’s reddened. I was pleased, but I looked down at the ground. The taboo had been broken.

Between us it was really not about whose art was better. I helped my brother paint cells for the animated cartoon and he taught me to make paper and sharpen my linoleum carving tools. Really that’s the point. I painted this rock so that Leafy could wander around Colorado Springs (where my brother lived most of the time).


He'll wander around Colorado Springs on this painted rock. :)

Leafy Wanders, my brother’s cartoon alter-ego.

19 thoughts on “Sibling Rivalry

  1. I loved the drawings. They are indeed special and wonderful. I’ve always said we have room for more than one dancer, artists, writer, whatever, in this family! It worked quite well as we have 3 dancers and the one that became the “rider” of horses was insanely incredible. The one that loved it most, worked the hardest and was for all that incredible and graceful. The third is a tiny tot who would rather do gymnastics this year than dance. Our only boy in the group is also a talented dancer. Time will tell as he wasn’t into hockey. We’ll see what this year brings. 🙂 Really enjoyed this, Martha.

    • My brother and I had room for each other. It was my mom who was the problem. Still, it bothers me in a small way that Kirk’s drawings inspire such an incredible reaction and mine don’t. I think it’s very complicated because he was an alcoholic and I supported him for a long time, continuing to hope that his great gifts would prove a rope out of the pit for him as my lesser gifts have for me. I would much rather live in a world with him in it. I suppose I am angry at him still for not loving life (and me, and his kid, and his talent) enough to. At the same time I know I cannot fully understand where he was inside himself or why. I think everyone who loses a loved one to addiction is filled with a quagmire of conflicted feelings. ❤

      • It’s painful and difficult to comprehend. There’s no easy answer as to why or how to help. I hate that saying about rock bottom because my daughter has a friend that hasn’t hit his yet and he’s done jail time for a car accident (he’d been partying the night before and drank heavily) so it was still in his blood stream when he went to hospital. You’d think that accidentally killing someone would be rock bottom. You could tell he was in extreme pain and felt beyond terrible regarding the tragedy, and said so when he met the family. Still, angered at what he’s done, I can’t hold it against him. Weird I guess but true.

        • Rock bottom doesn’t exist for every addict. As my brother told me, “I like being drunk.” This was after three harrowing months of hospitalization and rehab. I hope your daughter’s friend DOES hit rock bottom. And there is a big ray of hope in the fact that most addicts recover.

      • Has he managed to work his way through the quagmire? to the other side? Did his painting go anywhere. I sometimes wonder if talented people are more susceptible, because their vision is beyond other’s comprehension and they feel alone. Always wondered that. So many questions! usually without answers.

        • My brother died in 2010. I think that idea that talented people are more susceptible because of their great vision is BS. But, he was certainly self-medicating with booze so something was wrong. He had years and years and years of help, love, people with faith in him, friends, counseling, rehab but he did not have what every addict needs to recover — the desire to be sober. I believe it was a fight of good against evil and evil won.

          Anywho, here’s his story.

          • I’m so sorry, Martha. It’s scary. Unfathomable. I think I could understand if someone’s life had been absolutely horrific, and self medication was what they used to dull the pain, but too often, it seems it’s your every day family member, friend, someone you work this, that hasn’t suffered physically. I guess mentally or emotionally can have as bad an affect but it’s tragic none the less.

  2. Why do parents do that to their kids? All my life I heard, ‘Don’t you wish you were like your sister?” Hell, no. Of course, I am the black sheep in the family. Go figure….

    • I don’t know. It’s weird. It’s like one person’s existence somehow nullifies another’s which, of course, it doesn’t. Black sheep, huh. I was the opposite. I was the “good kid.” My mom hated that. There’s just no pleasing people :p

      • I was the quiet one. I was not a talker so did not ‘share’ every damn thing in my life. That made her unable to control me. My sister was the talker so that also made her the good one. Crazy. I moved to FL and blotted them all out. I had to.

        • 😦 My brother was charming and funny and cute. I liked him, too. He was my best friend and I was his. It was something no one could fuck up — including my mom. My dad was often very mean to my brother, but my brother went out of his way to provoke him. It was unfair. My dad was crippled and already felt like a failure because he couldn’t do things with/for my bro that he would have liked. My brother was a con artist from day one but he couldn’t con my dad so he acted out instead. Families. Can’t get born without one, can’t live with ’em. :p

  3. I suppose I was lucky that my brother and I had totally different directions in life, so there was no contest. But he never got to do what he really wanted to do and that was a pity. He wanted to work in conservation or with animals. Parks or conservation. He was far ahead of his time. No one understood how he could make that a profession. He went into business instead and I don’t think he was ever happy.

    • That’s interesting. The aptitude test the gubmint made me take (because they paid my way through college as my dad was a disabled veteran) said I should be a forest ranger or work with animals. That was absolutely NOT a career for girls back then, but I would have LOVED it. I think there were just fewer professions back then and of those there were, there were yet fewer that people appreciated. It seems it was all doctor, lawyer, teacher, businessman and then the myriad supporting roles.

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