Artist Does Time

Jann Zabelny painting
Jann Zabelny painting

This is one of my favorite paintings in the world. My flash shot does not do it justice. It is impossible to see the pencil drawing of me smiling behind the brown drum set. And the mic and floating keys above Peggi’s black keyboard are indiscernible here. But the expression reads. My niece did this when she was five. My sister would drop her off at our house when she had her hair done in the city. I babysat while I worked from home. At the time I was painting with house paint on the backs of billboard paper the I got from Dave Mahoney’s father. My niece wanted to do a painting so I suited her up in my paint clothes and rolled the sleeves way up and then the phone rang. She started painting with the brushes I had out and switched to mixing sticks when the brushes were dirty. I was on the phone for about twenty minutes and this painting was done when I got off. It’s about 4 feet wide and 5 feet tall and it’s hanging in our house today.

As oldest of seven I had a lot of babysitting experience in my own family and then when my sister started getting overbooked as a teenager I picked up her jobs and soon developed my own clients in the neighborhood. It was fifty cents an hour back then but there were all sorts of fringe benefits. I would go through the cupboards and refrigerator before the parents were out of the driveway. Hardest part was getting the little ones into bed before their parents came back. There were many times when I was unable to do this but I don’t remember ever losing any jobs over it.

When my sister was going through a long drawn out divorce I would ride my bike to her house in Webster and babysit for her three kids, my nieces, while she worked her job at a local restaurant. Divorce hits the kids the hardest and I witnessed the carnage. I would arrive and find ten kids smoking in one of the bedrooms or a group of kids on the roof of house. The scene was pretty much out of control but I did my best. There were fights, suspensions and a suicide attempt during this time but lots of fond memories. And then a nightmare when one of the kids developed an infection that went to her heart. She died while waiting for a heart transplant in Pittsburgh.

Peggi is on row 72 of a baby blanket that she is crocheting for the new son of one of these kids. And today I heard that the one who did this painting was sentenced to sixty days in an alcohol rehab facility for picking up two DWIs.

1 Comment

One Reply to “Artist Does Time”

  1. i am not sure if you will get this but I think this is a painting of one of my best friends from Webster. Can you please email me back. thanks

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