Like most kids, I grew up with crayons in one hand and a coloring book in the other. My mother has often said that I would draw and color on anything that didn’t wiggle away from me. In fact, for several years she had a painting hanging behind the couch that had several blue crayon marks mimicking the movement of the river. Evidently, I was interested in making art even then!
Even so, there was something standing between me and my destiny to create… my other brother!
Richard had an artistic talent that was absolutely amazing. He could draw anything with an exactness that was enviable. Compared to him, I had no talent or natural inclination. As you might expect, he got most (all) of the attention and nurturance in this area. He was even given private art lessons until he reached the age that art wasn’t “cool” anymore. My native abilities – whatever they might have been – were not particularly encouraged. No one discouraged me or told me that my art was sub par, but no one specifically encouraged me to draw or paint either.
Somehow, my little child-self interpreted the lack of affirmation as a statement about my lack of talent. By the time I was in the fourth grade – how old was I? Nine? Ten? – I was already self-conscious about art. By the time I was 14, I tearfully begged my way out of art class completely.
I was eventually encouraged to find a craft that suited me, however; I think that saved me, creatively. I can remember being in my 20s and going to the local craft store with my mother each Saturday, when the store gave free demonstrations to encouraged their customers to try new things. I tried my hand at sculpting friendly plastic lapel pins and decorating wicker baskets with cut-out fabric flowers. I covered my own window shades and stenciled flowers in my bedroom. I tried my hand at bead embroidery and I learned to crochet, cross-stitch, and tie near-perfect Colonial knots for candlewicking.
My mother and the craft store employees weren’t the only ones encouraging me. When I wanted shelves in my bedroom closet, my dad taught me how to use his table saw and helped me design exactly what suited me. He trusted me with his power tools, giving me confidence to work with my hands.
All of that encouragement to my creativity helped me eventually find my way back to art. When the time came that I needed a visual way of expressing myself – I’ve written all my life – I started out making, then designing, jewelry. From there, I dabbled in textile work. I eventually combined fabric with paper and then paper with paint.
I’d like to say that I’ve come full circle, but I’m still intimidated by a pencil and a blank piece of paper. I’ve made a couple of decent drawings over the years – good enough to keep encouraging me – but I simply don’t enjoy the process. I have to wonder, though, how much of it is truly a lack of enjoyment and how much of it is my long-seated lack of confidence?
It took a long time – and a lot of encouragement from people I respected – before I could call myself an artist, but now I do. I make art regularly. I’ve learned that what makes me an artist is not the quality of my creations, but rather my need to create. I’m very processed oriented, and not surprisingly, a Jill-of-all-trades.
And my brother? He’s a boilermaker who does contract work with oil refineries. I’m not even sure if he doodles while he’s on the phone …