I grew up in the country. My parents had a small farm allocated to them after World War I, and raised five children. They constructed a glass-enclosed veranda in which my mother tended an impressive cactus collection. An enormous orchard with young apple trees and berry bushes stretched along the north side of the house while decorative bushes and a flower garden with a tall, white flag pole in the center graced the south side. Every Saturday during the summer, it was my brother’s and my responsibility to root out the weeds from the gravel paths, mow the lawn, and several times during the season to whitewash the decorative stones bordering the flower beds. But on Sunday mornings, when the whole family was seated at the breakfast table in the veranda, we reveled in the magnificence of nature.
In the summer of 1948 a group of teenagers congregated for entrance exams to the Janis Rozentāls Art School. The competition was stiff, with four or five applicants competing for one opening. In a couple of hours we were required to paint a still-life in watercolors, draw a few simple objects, and, what was most important, paint a composition on a theme of our own choosing. I had no idea what that was or what it meant. A lump of nervousness constricted my throat. When the ordeal was over, I scored 3 points and was admitted to this temple of art but without a scholarship.