We can attempt to teach the things that one might imagine the earth would teach us: silence, humility, holiness, connectedness, courtesy, beauty, celebration, giving, restoration, obligation and wildness.
David Orr from "Earth in Mind"

Nov 19, 2008

color and light One Good Thing One Creative Thing Day 5

One Good Thing: Watching the sunrise over breakfast.

First Light

One Creative Thing: [Written at the library yesterday]

I have to admit I hate crayons. Even as a child I hated then. their colors are dull and they never stay sharp enough. I clearly remember repeatedly trying to color shapes only to find the crayon drawing on the other side of the line. I know that there were kids in my class who could color perfectly, their lines were never crossed and when they filled in shapes the colors covered evenly with all the strokes going in the same direction.

After crayons we were introduced to colored pencils, 12 color boxes of Prisomcolor to be exact. While I could sharpen the point as much as I wanted the colors were still bland, no matter how hard I pushed. I craved the streaks of vibrant colors as much as I wanted to create the images in my head. But I was still sloppy and would get in trouble for not following the directions (remember this was just lower school). I tried, I really did, but my hands just couldn't move the pencils as delicately as the projects called for.

At home was a different story. Here I had my father's old watercolors that I would spend my Saturday mornings painting with rather than watching cartoons (the TV was in my parents bedroom). I remember years of painting little landscapes on scrap paper. I would create them with repeated lines; obsessing over the exact tone of the ocean, the sand, the clouds above. Each of them would be tiny worlds that I could enter. Around that time I was reading the Secret Garden and was enamored with the Scottish Moors. I drew scene after scene of what I thought those moors would look like.

When I had painted the pans empty my father would take me to the neighborhood art store to choose a new set. He was adimant that I use "real" paints not the flashy kids ones (whose flash was in the packaging not the paint). In the end I would usually come home with a yellow enamel box of Pelikan paints, the same sort I used all the way through college. My father never studied art or teaching but he knew what he liked to look at enjoyed reading about art. If he was going to have to hang the pieces that I did up then he wanted to like what he was looking at. In his mind this meant that I should have the supplies that would give me the best chance of taking the idea from my mind to the paper.

It was during these hours alone in his shop that I would play with the brushes, pigments and water, learning how each of them worked. While my princesses stood out as sloopy among the giant crowds of homogenious royalty that hung in the hallways of my school at home, with the watercolors my work was delicate.

The difference was simple; at school I was limited to choosing the colors and perhaps a little pattern while at home I was free to paint as I pleased for as long as I wanted to (or not at all). At school we were each handed a box of scented markers (at least these were vibrant) that no adult would pick up. At home I was given real supplies, pencils and paints that I would still use today. In retrospect there was no question about where my real art making was going on but at the time I sure I must be the worst artist in the world because I couldn't get my flowers to look just like the girl who sat next to me in class (who by the way was always weatring matching Benneton socks and shirts).

I knew. I knew not to stop what I was doing at home, in some ways I couldn't. I felt it when my father would take me for long Saturdays of walking from gallery to gallery in SoHo and I knew it when we would spend entire days in a single wing of the Met. I could see it in the modern paintings and I could see it in the cases of African masks. So I didn't stop. After each of these days out with my dad I would come home and try my hand at what I had seen.

Even now when I return to visit my father and find relics of my childhood art around the house. Its survival over the past three decades is not sentimentality, although that I am his daughteris part of it, they are all pieces that he felt were beyond my age when I created them. He knew it then and despite himself has directed me in this direction. I always find it amusing when I hear about parents who brought their children up to be doctors or lawyers and I respond that I was brought up to be an artist.

At this point it is up to me. If I really want to be this artist that I can be I have to work at it put in the time and space. Otherwise I am jut another person who messes around with paint.


The Grocer said...

"I really want to be this artist...otherwise I am just another person messing about with paint"
Do you mean PAID artist? My guess is that you will achieve more by enjoying the creation and letting it flow and the work will probably be better. Do'nt listen to me though I struggle to paint walls.

affectioknit said...

What a lovely story of creativity!

Lori said...

beautiful. i hate crayons, too. and cheap children’s watercolors. giving children real materials respects their work. thank you for sharing this lovely story.

Stacey said...

Grocer, it isn't an issue of being paid for my art work, although it would be nice occasionally, it is more an issue of actually making art consistently and improving my skill and enjoying myself.