A lot has happened since I last updated this blog: My mother/best friend/art consultant/ and many other things in my life, passed away at the age of 94. I had been taking care of her for many years but the space she filled in my life was huge and for months I felt adrift. My life as I knew it was changed forever. I told people that it felt like having my life shot out of a confetti canon and as the pieces came back down to earth they would form my new normal.
As the months have passed my life has started to take on a new dimension, it’s not so scary, though I wouldn’t be truthful if I didn’t say it is a bit empty as I look for Mom to comment on an art piece I am working on or just her presence in the house, but it is getting better. Part of that I am positive of has to do with the classes I teach and the people in them, they have been my anchor through all this and I appreciate them more then they know.
Lately, and it isn’t the first time I’ve heard this, I have had students come up to me and thank me for not giving up on them because they were ready to quit. I guess it is in my nature to encourage but a part of me doesn’t really understand; it is art, it is just a piece of paper or a canvas no one dies, no worlds are lost, why would you give up? Yet there is the part of me that totally understands.
I think we all have to go through this at some point in time particularly if we try an activity that is totally new to us after we have raised our families, and retired from our jobs. We are adults and we have experienced life and our art shouldn’t look like something the 3 year-old grand kid paints. It should look like the Monet or the Sargent or whoever we have admired and strive to be with our art or whatever art or craft we decided to explore.
Maybe there was someone in your past or maybe even present that is, shall I say, less than encouraging? I had a Jr. College teacher who taught like he was trying to cut off the competition before some young buck cut off his livelihood. After taking his class, I was so disgusted with myself I put up my paints for a dozen years. Yet the need to create was still there and I finally decided that I would take some classes through the adult school and if I didn’t like the teacher, I could quit and it wouldn’t be on my permanent record. I learned more from her the first night than I did in 18 weeks I had with Mr. Encouragement.
That one night and a teacher who cared was like a light had been turned on in my life! That creative part of me that longed to get out and explore the world of art was almost free. I say almost because part of me was still holding on to the past, that part that said I wasn’t good enough. I struggled with it for some time, always finding the one little aspect of a painting that I wasn’t happy with, focusing on that and ignoring the rest of the picture.
However, the light had been turned on and my creative side wasn’t going back into the darkness, the more I painted the better I became and more confident in my skills. Did I need to hone those skills? Yes but you don’t do that by quitting when you have just gotten started on your journey. I remember the conversation I was having in my head – come on we all have them – the side that was so hyper critical and picking on some little insignificant thing I just couldn’t resolve, was on a rant! “What makes you think you’re and artist?” “Where do you get off pretending you will ever learn how to paint?” “Look at this crap, you couldn’t fix this if your life depended on it!” and many other things along that line. I had myself in tears quite literally.
The creative side was trying to argue “Look at the rest of the painting, it has its good points,” but the other voice was too loud, too insistent and I was about to give up again when the part of me that needs to create had finally found its strength and said “Shut the ____ UP!” I could also hear my mom’s voice saying “Its art, not a photograph, dear.” Talk about your epiphany.
My creative side found its voice and took a stance and I haven’t looked back. That is why part of me can’t understand giving up on art and why I try very hard to encourage those who are struggling. I am their creative side’s champion until it is strong enough to stand up and say “Shut up” to the critical side we all have. Are we going to paint a masterpiece in class? Probably not, but we are learning and one day we will paint that painting that slams the door shut on our critical side and opens the door to a whole new world.
You paint or you knit or you make pots or whatever because it is in the very nature of being human to create, to express ourselves and you do it for yourself. You don’t do it for you husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, aunt, uncle or anyone else, you do it for you. My mom use to paint for years and when she couldn’t handle the mess she would use her colored pencils to create cards, she did this almost up to the time she died and she hadn’t ever done any art until after she retired at age 72, was it great art? I think so, but I’m a bit prejudice. Her cards and paintings are treasures for me and the family but more important they gave her an outlet she never thought she couldn’t do in her early life and it gave her satisfaction. She never quit and neither should you, remember:
“It’s just a piece of paper/canvas. No lives will be lost, no wars will be started and you can try again. It is art, not a photograph.”
Love you and miss you Mom.
To find out about the classes Lerri teaches through the Torrance Parks and Rec. Department, go to: http://www.tprd/torrent.com/9087.htm
Lerri is now also teaching classes at the Palos Verdes Art Center.