Tales of an Almost Art Class Dropout – Ritter Ames Mysteries

Tales of an Almost Art Class Dropout

In high school art class, I understood the principles, knew trivia on every artist, loved composition and atmosphere—but rarely turned in a project that wasn’t a disaster. I had the same art teacher from ninth until twelfth grade. Senior year, she looked at my latest what-the-heck-is-that? project and asked, “Why in the world did you choose to take this class for four years?” Yes, I chose to take the elective that humbled me on a daily basis.

It didn’t matter if my work wasn’t displayed. Nothing beat watching my classmates—who were good at every medium—create beautiful original works. I was everyone’s audience. The kid who nearly didn’t get assignments completed because she was so busy marveling over the genius spilling out around her.Stolen masterpieces from Castelvecchni Civic Museum-group paintings

I discovered art history classes in college. We discussed theory and design elements, but I never had to pick up a paintbrush or charcoal. In my element, finally, I wrote about art. I also learned about missing art, forged masterpieces, and priceless works hidden for years, decades—maybe even centuries—before surfacing again by accident or dumb-crook mistakes.

A mystery reader’s dream come true.

All became fodder when I brainstormed my Bodies of Art Mysteries. I knew I wanted point-of-view character Laurel Beacham to work as an art recovery expert—finding lost art others tried to spirit away. She needed to know art world players and fit in, but I didn’t want her simply mingling with the upper-crust attending glittery fundraising parties, auctions and openings. I also didn’t envision her following behind law enforcement types and pushing paperwork each day.

I wanted her in the mix. Living on the edge. Doing whatever it took to reunite missing masterpieces with the public.

She also needed a foil to keep her sharp, tax her patience, and leave her a little off-balance. I brainstormed Jack Hawkes, someone who can anticipate Laurel’s impetuous moves because he usually stays one step ahead of her. Jack maintains enough mystery to keep her infuriated—but interested—and he knows or can find out things when she doesn’t have the connections. Both have quick wits, sharp tongues, and the kind of skills and tenacity needed to accept every challenge coming their way.Tower Bridge at Night w-BOA cropped

An author is often asked if characters in a novel are actually the author in disguise. I can honestly say parts of Laurel are the idealistic almost-art-class-dropout I was until I found my true calling in college. A calling she follows naturally because that’s the joy of fiction—my characters learn from my mistakes. She needs less sleep than I, wears better clothes, travels constantly to places I adore, and eats what she loves and doesn’t gain a pound. But I can balance a checkbook—something beyond Laurel’s capabilities. I’m also much less likely to risk life and limb rappelling off the side of a building—but she and Jack accept that challenge as just another work day.

Is there anything you did that developed into something more important later in your life?


The first two books in the Bodies of Art Mysteries series, Counterfeit Conspiracies and Marked Masters are on sale now, and Abstract Aliases will be out this fall. For more information on Ritter Ames or her books and series characters, check out her page on the Henery Press website at http://henerypress.com/ritter-ames/ or her website at www.ritterames.com

7 Replies to “Tales of an Almost Art Class Dropout”

  1. Somehow I think Laurel might say Jack not only taxes her patience, but sometimes makes her want to jump OUT that window, just so she can be perverse, to see what he does. LOL I believe that all that we’ve done in our lives makes us who we are today. If I had to point to one thing, I will say that as a young teen, I taught music. It started out as a way to help out our family (as money was ALWAYS short) but also gave me the opportunity to share what I had learned from my lessons all those years before. It taught me patience with people, it gave me an opportunity to work with young children (whose parents wanted them to learn to play music, even if they did not), teens, adults, and even adults in their 70’s! [ahem. Which doesn’t seem so old anymore….] It also gave me much discipline and dexterity as I could do many things at one time. I have to think that it helped me with my career as a software engineer and then my career in human resources. I learned to think outside the box when the engineering was in its’ infancy and how to deal with people from all walks of life. How’s that for waxing poetic over my first cup of cawfee??? :>) Can’t wait for more Jack and Laurel!

    1. I have no doubt your music background has made a difference in thinking outside the box. I’ve read many studies about how math and music help in all creative activities–and nothing is a more creative activity than problem solving. When I taught a Writing for College course to high school students, I found–hands down–my best writing students were also music students. One student in particular had never taken a writing class before, but started piano at four years old. She was by far my best student ever. I couldn’t wait to read her assignments each time. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Gale,

  2. I loved reading where the Bodies of Art came from. Your love of art is evident in the books as well as in comments you make but the back story brings it together.
    It wasn’t something I did that led to my career choice but the reaction of others to the fact that we moved frequently. Some people laugh when I say that we were viewed as migrant (and why is that a bad thing?) because my dad was a civil engineer for a construction company. He only accepted domestic work and in the early days, jobs sometimes lasted only three or four months and other times lasted a year.
    When I finally discovered the joy of reading, I also discovered that those of us who move frequently were looked down upon even in that glory of glories, the public library. My first attempt to get a library card was thwarted because we had not lived in town for at least two years, and because we were new, we did not know anyone, much less the essential two long time residents who would allow us to use them as a reference so I was informed by a rather pinched person, who I thought was a librarian, that I was not eligible for a card. The tears locked in my throat and humiliated for one of the few times in my life. I determined then and there that I would grow up to be a nice small town school librarian. I encountered other pinched librarians after that but it only reinforced my desire to create a place were everyone could enjoy the thrill of discovering new books.
    I did not enter another public library for five years and had lived in the same town for two years by then. I was not going to face that humiliation again, but that new town had an amazing library and I was going to take advantage of all it had to offer. Twenty-six of my 33 years in the school systems were in fact spent in smaller schools most of that time as a librarian.

  3. I love this story, Jeanie! My earliest public library had wonderful librarians who I thought were glorious angels. I remember telling my grandmother something like that after we left there when I was about kindergarten age. She smiled and hugged me, and I took that to mean I was right 🙂 But we moved from that town and state at the end of third grade, and the next couple of towns we lived in didn’t have public libraries, just school libraries. I was lucky enough not to have a bad experience with those librarians either.

    However, when I was in my early teens we moved to a town that was the county seat, that had a lovely little Carnegie library, and I was in heaven again. Until I encountered the head librarian. And all her “subordinates” had to follow every arcane rule she decreed. It wasn’t as bad as your experience, as I was still allowed to get a library card. I just wasn’t sure I wanted to actually use it.

    As mortified as I feel for the way you were treated, it’s cheering to know how strong your heart was to not only enter that next library, but to do so even more years after you could have just to make sure your residency made the cut. Without knowing this story, I already knew you were the best kind of school librarian in your time at the job. Knowing more of the story now makes me see your schools’ students were even luckier than I’d imagined. Love how big your heart is, Jeanie.

  4. Well. I for one am thrilled that you stuck with these classes. Your love for art and knowledge of it is coming out in your books. I am in the middle of Marked Masters, enjoying the action and settings across the globe, and secretly trying to fight off a stab of Envy at your imagination! 🙂

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