l played the violin for seven years, from 4th grade to 11th. I was never very good. I liked playing — just not enough to really practice, to commit that measure of myself that would take me to another level.
Music wasn’t writing, and my heart belonged to words.
Now, I know writers, I know musicians, and I know photographers and graphic artists. Each discipline takes practice, patience, and a commitment to the skin and bones of it, to the grit of working through and working out. Nothing easy.
Yet my guest today, Jennifer Lyn King, is a writer and a photographer and an artist. She’s a wife and the mother of three boys. She has a degree in mechanical engineering, and she’s modeled on the runways of Paris and New York City. She plays the piano and the viola, and she tried out for the Olympics in synchronized swimming in 1988. Now that is practice, patience, and commitment. Nothing simple.
Jennifer blends her experiences into a rich and enriching whole. Her years as a model allow her to write about the “gap between perceived reality and actual reality,” the necessity of taking risks, and the importance of real beauty. As a photographer, she uses the lens to slow down and discover the wonder and vibrant colors all around us. As a mother, she offers similar wisdom on finding balance and the importance of free time. Her love of books and reading led her to become a founding member of the fabulous website, Great New Books.
Jennifer and her family recently moved back to the United States after living in Prague for four years. Her travel pictures will inspire you to pack your bags and hit the road — or boat or plane. (Check out: My 12 Best Photographs of 2011, Prague’s Spires and Magical Golden Lane: A Photojournal, Italy’s Amalfi Coast: A Photojournal, and Prague, Charles Bridge, and Sunrise in Fog.)
Jennifer believes that “Life is an adventure, full of beauty,” and she puts that motto into practice, everyday. She asks, “what does it mean to seek out more than the mediocre, more than what is expected, more than the norm?” and then she provides a compelling answer: “A well-lived life isn’t always about sitting back and finding the comfortable position. It’s about seeking out the things that make us tick, fuel our spirits, and stretch us to become the people we are made to be.” Her words and photographs inspire me to rethink my settled limitations. I am delighted to welcome Jennifer to The Hatchery.
Life in Prague as an Artist & Writer, by Jennifer Lyn King
When I was very small, I loved to watch my grandmother play the piano. She could play anything by request—she had the rare gift of playing by ear. At age five, I decided I, too, wanted to learn to play the piano. I bought a set of four plastic busts of the classical composers at a garage sale, which I kept with me wherever I went. Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, and Mozart became my early heroes.
I did grow up doing other (more normal) things besides collecting statues of dead musicians, but I continued with the piano, and took up playing the viola in fifth grade. I have always loved music, in addition to reading and writing, painting and photography.
In 2009, when my husband and I found out we had a chance to move to Prague, Czech Republic, for his job, we immediately jumped at the opportunity. For me, living in and traveling throughout Europe with my family seemed like a dream come true.
And it was, all four years.
Prague is an artist’s, writer’s, photographer’s, music lover’s paradise. The history goes back as far as the 400s A.D., and Prague and former Czechoslovakia have impacted the world for centuries.
I walked around with my camera and captured as much of Prague as I could, both traditional shots and ones from off-the-beaten-path, which were my favorites. I attended as many musical performances as I could, which were world-class. And, I made a habit of painting and writing about as many things and experiences as I could while we were there—the inspiration never ends in Prague.
But Prague’s incredible influence on world arts became personal about halfway through my time there.
I toured the Lobkowicz Palace within the Prague Castle with my family one Sunday, and could not believe what I saw. The Lobkowiczes, an incredibly kind and humble family whose kids went to school with our kids, have recently reacquired their family property after it had been taken by the Nazis and then the Communists. One of their treasures is Beethoven’s manuscript for his 5th Symphony, which is now on display inside their Palace. The 7th Prince Lobkowicz, their family ancestor, had been the patron of the musician Ludwig von Beethoven. In return for the support, Beethoven dedicated his 3rd, 5th, and 6th Symphonies to the Lobkowicz family. Inside the Lobkowicz Palace inside the Prague Castle, his actual work is on display, alongside manuscripts of Haydn, Mozart, and Handel.
One night long not long after my first tour of the Lobkowicz Palace, I pulled out my viola and began to play a piece of music I’ve had tucked inside my viola case since 10th grade (a few years ago … ahem). I happened to read the top of the page, which I’ve seen for years, and discovered Beethoven had also dedicated the music I’d played for so long to the Lobkowiczes. I couldn’t believe it.
I recently read a quote by Leonardo da Vinci that says, “Art is the queen of all sciences communicating knowledge to all the generations of the world.”
Yes. Art matters. It connects us all, mysteriously, touching our lives in ways we cannot fully perceive.
In Prague, I walked the same cobblestone streets and perhaps sat at the same tables in cafes as artistic legends like Kafka, Mucha, Mozart, and Dvořak. Their work lives on not because they were famous or wealthy at the time of their creations, but because others believed in them and their work and helped to support them. Art connects us to other places and times. For those of us who create, we need to believe in our work. We cannot know how our creations may touch someone, now or in the future. Art is important.
Living in Prague for an extended time will always be one of the great privileges of my lifetime.
Jennifer is a writer and author who loves to read and share great books with others. She’s recently moved back to the USA after living for four years in Prague, Czech Republic. She enjoys photography, oil painting, tennis, and traveling with her husband and three sons. She is currently at work on a novel set in New Orleans and coastal Italy. For more about Jennifer, visit her website and blog at http://jenniferlynking.com and http://GreatNewBooks.org, a book recommendation site she helps to run. She can also be found on Twitter @JenniferLynKing.