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Guest Post by Patricia Batta

Where did Marge Christensen get her talent?


Marge Christensen is a water color pencil artist. Why? I know next to nothing about water color pencil art.

When I first started the Marge Christensen Mystery Series, I was looking for something a little bit different. Cats and crafts and catering were well represented in the cozy mystery genre, and anyway, I wasn’t proficient enough in any of them to make it the “hook” for my series. As it turned out, having Marge be an artist was just right for the way the series developed. I have a feeling it was one of those areas where the characters told me what was true for them rather than the other way around.

In What Did You Do Before Dying?, Marge’s art started as a symbol of what she had given up when she married and had children. After the death of her husband, she began to reclaim her talent and to hope it might be a way to a new beginning. In the end, it was a unique aspect of her talent that helped bring some bad guys to justice. In Why Did You Die In the Park?, that talent led her to questions that would never otherwise have arisen. And by the time Who More Than Wanted You Dead? came about, she was beginning to depend on it to help discover who did the deed. Because, even if she couldn’t otherwise recall something she had seen, her fingers never forgot.

I only knew about water color pencil art as a serious art form because a sister-in-law, Phyllis, who unfortunately died young as a result of an auto accident, practiced it. She painted a picture as an anniversary gift for my husband and me which made me a believer in the medium at first glance. When I adopted that as Marge’s chosen art form (or she chose it for me) I figured it would be a sideline to the plot, a way to honor Phyllis. I wouldn’t have to know anything more about the art. When it became a central element in the series, I knew I was doomed to educate myself.

I purchased a kit for learning water color pencil art. Fine, as long as I was using its templates and following its instructions to the letter. Otherwise, my attempts looked more like something a first grader might do. Then I discovered some artists combined water color pencils with water color paints. That helped, but it wouldn’t make an artist out of me. I took a drawing class (all the painting classes were at bad times for me) from my local community college. The instructor convinced me that my college art teacher who, many years ago, had left me with the impression I couldn’t draw was all wet. But it didn’t make an artist out of me.

So I struggle along, trusting that Marge or Phyllis or whoever put this idea in my head will lead me when I have to deal with it. At a recent book presentation, someone asked if a person’s fingers could really draw something the person couldn’t otherwise remember. I had to tell the truth. I have no idea. But it seems to work for Marge.

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