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,


  1. This is a wonderful post Marilyn that so many of us can relate to. My family showed no interest in art either and actually I was never in art museum until maybe 10 years ago. I do push art supplies on the young people in the family and had my grandson painting with watercolors when he was barely 2, lol. Nice post, I'm off to share it.

    1. Thank you Barb. I think a lot of us went through similar childhoods, and had to actually find our way back to who we are. I appreciate you taking the time to comment!

  2. Thanks for this blog post Marilyn. I, like you, hope it will open the eyes, minds and hearts of some parents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters, etc. during the coming season. I hope the person who gifted you with the paint book now knows of the influence it had on your life. :)

  3. Thank YOU Debra, for appreciating this little story from my childhood. This isn't the blog I had planned on for this week, but yesterday changed all my plans. For about an hour I was transported back in time. I could actually see the miracle of the interaction between water, paint, and paper. I could FEEL the excitement again! I simply had to share the experience and hope the blog makes it possible for at least one more child. Thank you so much for commenting, and understanding!

  4. Marilyn I just love the post you put on your blog and can relate so much. I was glad the day I was introduced to Fine Art I also came from a family that money for things like art was hard to come by so I was married before was able to give it a try and I hope all people young and old can enjoy the world of art. Great Post!

  5. Janice, I think most of our generation "gets it", and hopefully has gone on to being more open to creativity. Those formative years, and a parent's acceptance of whatever a child wants to try, are so important! Thanks for sharing here, and taking the time to let me know you enjoy my ramblings! <3

  6. Marilyn, Marilyn...I do you believe you are going to be the caterpillar that grows into a beautiful butterfly with your wonderful blog. I find I am not in the least surprised. Hugs, my friend.

  7. Lovely post! Your story could have been so sad. Love that you found the sprinkles again!