Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Creative Gift

I heard my first Christmas advertisement for the year yesterday. REALLY? 

At first I was appalled, and engaged in a grumble fest aimed at marketing to children, and the ensuing requests parents will endure so soon after the beginning of school. Electronics, games, toys…it seems the list is endless. As I let that energy drive my brush hand, memories flooded my mind of a Christmas past. There was a gift that changed my life, and was a portent of who I was to become. You won’t see a lot of advertising for this gift, and that’s a shame. Let me tell you about my personal experience with this gift. It’s a kicker. It changes lives. It’s art.


As a child, art was never a topic that was discussed within our home. Of course the obligatory crayons, and the occasional coloring book, filtered into my life. But more wondrous, was the receipt of a “miraculous” paint book. This came to me as a Christmas gift from a relative. Simple drawings with little dark speckles graced the pages of this amazing gift. A brush was attached to the binding. Simply dipping the brush in water, and stroking over the speckles, awakened a burst of color that leeched from the specks and created a painting. Yahoo! I was beside myself. I could barely wait for one page to dry before I started on the next. I think I completed that entire book in one day. I begged for another, and was told, “No, it was a gift”. That was my first, and last, exposure to paint for a very long time.

In retrospect, I understand. I had been born into a post-depression era, New England family. Remembering the hard times, and preparing for them to come around again, was the focus. Keeping the budget, pinching pennies, and purchasing nothing that wasn’t an absolute need, drove the dynamic of the family. Early on, my mother had forbid me to use her grocery list steno pad to draw on. Paper was too expensive. Later in life, I was made aware that my father resented the fact that public monies were used to create galleries and museums that only the wealthy could afford to visit. No, art was not something you expressed an interest for in my home. Everything about it was useless, or wasteful, or unattainable. I’m certain they never considered all the possibilities art held as a lucrative vocation. 

Once I entered elementary school, the emphasis on art seemed to be focused on holiday-themed bulletin board creations. Every classroom had a bulletin board, and there were several scattered about the hallways. I never knew exactly how the “artistic” students were selected to participate in the design and creation of the hallway displays; I just know I was never among the selected few. Middle school offered one semester of art instruction. I thank you Mr. McCarthy, for your singular validation of my potential.

High school blurred by, marriage, children, jobs…life happened. I did what I had to do to get by. Then, about a decade ago, while out for a stroll, I passed a little shop offering “One-Stroke” classes. I registered and took perhaps a dozen classes. That long-forgotten, fascinating sensation overtook me once again. The rest, as they say, is history. It is also my present, and hopefully, my future. Art completes me.

So, when you hear those ads telling you what a child on your list really wants, take the path less traveled. Make this the year you open a door in a child’s mind. Take them to a museum, register them for an art class, buy them a camera, a loom, a paint box, or simply crayons and paper, lots of paper! Talk to them about Walt Disney, Pixar, web design, architectural design, or any of the current, great, art opportunities out there. Make them aware that a drive to create is a good thing. Let them know you support them, encourage them. Give them the gift of looking inside, and expressing themselves with unique creations. Yours could be the most important gift they will ever receive. Just imagine!

Love from my studio,

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Another Year Older

This week I turn 60. Aging has never been as big a deal to me as it seems to be for some. I don’t search for new wrinkles or pluck grey hairs. If, like some do, I chose to ruminate the disappointments of my lifetime, I imagine it would feel similar to the time in my youth, when having ventured too far into the ocean; I was seized by a wave. It dominated me. My tender, na├»ve body, was tossed wildly about, and then repeatedly pummeled against the ocean floor. Just when I was sure I could hold my breath no longer, up I popped. Wobbling back to my blanket, attempting to look unscathed (not out of pride, but fear of punishment for venturing too far), I had my first “Ah-Hah” moment. With perfect clarity, I understood my own mortality. Remember the lesson, not the pain, move thankfully forward. Surviving another year is cause for celebration. Party on!

This year, I bought myself an En Plein Air Pro easel for my birthday. It is time to get out there. Last week I set it up in the studio so we could get to know each other, and I could save face when I venture out  in public.

Even at this new, ripe, old age, it was quick and easy. YAY! If anyone is interested, I’ll write a review on it in a future blog. Just let me know.

 Birthday blessings continued to rain down upon me. As I painted and puttered about the studio, tweaking drawings, deepening shadows, and mentally preparing for my future plein-air excursion, I glanced over at the computer screen. There, next to the message icon was one of those little red flags, I had a message. I did what any studio-bound, solitary artist does. Click. 

Sharon Dodge: “Vicki and I will be at Oak Island Labor Day Craft show on Saturday. I have a bag ready for you.”

That simple message made my day brighter; actually it turned my week around! Sharon is a wildly talented potter. She started a tradition a few years ago, of presenting me with a bag of “goodies” from her kiln while I visit her stand at the yearly craft show. The show just happens to be held within a week of my birthday. I’m convinced she has no idea how much that little bag of ceramic treasures means to me. I can never open it in front of her, because I know I’ll cry. 

Sharon’s thoughtfulness over the years graces my space. Little bowls hold the seeds and nuts I snack on while painting, wall vases keep my pencils, pens, and rulers, within easy reach and organize my kitchen tools. My prized handmade oatmeal soap rests on one of her little plates, and she created the perfect dish to keep my brushes wet, without ruining the hairs. No room in my home is untouched by her friendship.

My “goodies” this year include the PERFECT tiny dish to hold my evening teabag, another lovely nut cup (you can’t have enough of those!), and a bowl now designated as my yogurt and fruit bowl, destined to ease me into many creative days.

Thank you, Sharon. Your art fills my home; your generosity and thoughtfulness fill my heart. You are a gift to my spirit.

As for me, I’m ready for another trip around the sun. I’ll keep all the jewels of joy from the past year, and cherish those people that have made me feel loved. This year I’ll explore new opportunities whenever and wherever they arise. I’ll create new happy memories to reflect upon next September, and be thankful and excited about the new year to come. That little girl on the beach healed from her wounds, learned that life is fragile, and embraces each and every day.

Turning 60 is going to be a piece of cake, chocolate I hope, with ice cream!

Love from my studio,