When I was little and you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, in no uncertain terms that I was going to be an Artist. That’s what I was good at. That’s what I loved to do. I loved drawing. I loved coloring, shading, making beautiful things, expressing my inner world, creating.
I was always encouraged in my expression, but as I actually started growing up, the reality of becoming an Artist crept into the shadows of my heart when people started telling me that artists are only ever famous, ever recognized for their talents and genius, after they die. How sad for them.
There were also many different ways of being an artist, and it started getting overwhelming. As I got to high school, the “art world” was this elite program that had these strange rules I wasn’t expecting nor quite ready to follow. As I began to buy my own supplies, and saw the price tags for some of the supplies required for my classes, I realized that being an artist might mean stretching myself even farther than starving. And as I found my way over to the music and theater departments, I realized I wasn’t ready to commit as fully to visual art as I once assumed. And that was okay. I used my other interests and brought them into my art. I was comfortable elbow deep in acrylics or singing a solo in the Christmas concert. I got ready to go to college, hoping I could still do it all there, too.
But college art classes were three hours long and more expensive than the rest. I never took a college art course, and I changed my intended major from “inter-arts” to English. Because to write, all one needed was a pen and some paper. And I had some talent, there, too. Someone else once told me that you could do practically anything with an English major, because communication was always important. Turned out, not quite as important as specialized training, but I digress.
There has been an ebb and flow to my visual art pursuits. In graduate school, I discovered the visual poem. I realized that there was a way to combine my love of art and my love of words. And the ink and paper that was required to do so actually fit into my budget again. And now, I’m once more leaning in to the visual part. I’m bringing the poetry with me and everything I’ve done before. I need to learn a lot all over, I feel. Because my eyes and hands have had some trouble getting on the same page together these days. They haven’t danced this way in some time.
And today I know better. I’m not listening to those voices from the shadows anymore. They only want to pull me into the darkness again. I know that being famous is not what art is about. It’s about expression, creation, sharing. If people enjoy what I do and I get recognition or am even able to sell some work (easier done now that the Internet exists in its present form), then that’s just gravy.
It’s also not just about visual art. The other things in life need to be there, otherwise the picture lives without a soul. So I’m not just resuscitating the drawing fingers. I’m knitting them into the fabric of my world. I’m coloring with my children. I’m finding ways to express myself using what I have in my heart today and the tools I have at hand. And it feels really, really good.