I can't count the number of times I've had comments on this blog that say, "I wish I was creative like you." Or, "I just can't do art at all." (Big mistake -- linking art with creativity. Yes, it is creative, but it's also technical, too, or can be. There are so many things that are creative that we don't always put in that category.)
Not too long ago, our friend Katie at Let's Add Sprinkles wrote about how when she was a child, her sister was labeled as the "artist" and Katie "Susie Homemaker." I could relate.
I've seen this happen more than once. But when I was a child, it happened to me.
We should never allow ourselves (or others) to be labeled. It holds us back. Or maybe it makes us fight back harder.
My cousin Patty -- my three-years-younger cousin -- is indeed a natural. From the time she was seven or eight, she was drawing remarkable things -- chubby babies, horses (beginning at the tail and working up) and more. I drew stick people with round heads and triangles for dresses.
I tried so hard to be an artist like Patty. I was nine or ten and my mom did her best to help, making sure I had books and materials to help me learn. She encouraged me in every way possible. But one day, hoping to build my esteem in other talents, she said, "You know, everyone has a gift. Patty is an artist. You write. That's just as important."
Oh, did that make me mad. And more determined. I studied fashion ads in the newspaper, Millie the Model comic books. I learned how to draw a profile. When I was in sixth grade, the teacher called my mom in for a conference to ask if I was "all right." For my art project, I drew probably a dozen floating profiles in a sea of blue that I titled "Heaven." No deep psychological issue or loss -- I just hadn't learned learned how to draw good bodies yet.
I copied things. All kinds of things. You couldn't tell my Charlie Brown and Lucy from Charles Schulz's! I wouldn't call it art, but I would call it trying. And that's how you get to Carnegie Hall -- practice, practice, practice.
Every summer at the lake, Patty and I would paint, quite often the smooth rocks we would pull from the water.
I would paint little children in the style of Joan Walsh Anglund. Patty would paint clever, original things. But by then it didn't matter if it was original or not. I was painting. (I still use those rocks as door stops at the lake!)
As I went off to college, Patty would send me delightfully creative letters, illustrated with a fifteen-year-old's impression of college life in the fall of 1969, which was actually pretty on target! By then, I was putting all my time into my theatre major. The only art I was doing were sketches for costume and scene design courses. Then it was on to my career in broadcasting where I wrote and edited every single day for more than 30 years. In between event planning and fundraising, wrote ads, articles, brochure copy, press releases, radio and television spots. Or maybe events and fundraising were done in between all the writing.
When I left the office, I volunteered in my community, did some freelance writing and lots of crafty things. I made jewelry and ornaments, knit, needlepointed, worked on my photography and painted sweatshirts (which really isn't the kind of painting I had in mind.) I started doing some art shows. They wouldn't pay the rent, but I was being creative.
Meanwhile, four hours away, Patty was involved in her work doing direct sales and marketing. She was good at it, she had "the knack." But she didn't have time for painting anymore.
Flash forward several decades. I rediscovered art, this time with collage and art journaling, joining groups and going to workshops where I largely did mixed media work.
Then about five or six years ago, I fell in love with watercolor. Who would imagine that I would be doing commissions for pet portraits and paintings of homes? And yes, I still write.
Patty? Well, she started painting again, maybe ten or fifteen years ago, focusing on wildlife and landscapes.
She's had work in shops but mostly does it for the love of it.
And you'll never guess. She is writing. Her poetry is magnificent -- it flows from her, almost unbidden and as a series her poems weave a magical, otherworldly story.
Our Greg is a remarkable artist and somehow is making a living from it in a competitive world, working in large form. From the time he was six or seven and drew a figure of a guitar player -- in proportion -- we knew he had a gift.
His younger brother Kevin was "the athlete." More than once when they were growing up, Kevin would say "Greg is the artist, I can't do that." (The art teacher they shared in high school several years apart did nothing to help build esteem or skill, either.) Yet even when Kevin was about eleven, when we went to a museum, he could look at art and seemed to have an understanding of it. Not of the techniques used, but the thought behind it.
Yes, Greg is still doing his art and making a career of it. Today, Kevin spends the time he isn't working or playing with the boys making furniture and home accessories, carefully working a board of wood into tables and wine racks. And, when it comes to household things, like building a pergola or a home reno thing, Kevin's your guy. I would call his work art.
Don't allow yourself to be labeled. If you want to be an artist and can't draw a straight line or a realistic figure, go abstract. If you want to write a poem and can't think outside the limerick format, try free verse and don't worry about the rhyme.
I believe we all are creative in our own way. It's how our universe survives. Some of us paint or draw, knit or build, sew or work with intricate miniatures. Others of us create gorgeous tablescapes, have remarkable gardens or develop fabulous recipes. And don't try to convince me that computer programmers who can master code well beyond me or scientists who combine elements that can create vaccines and medications aren't creative. It's just a different way of thinking and I'm grateful they can do that!
We all have the ability to create. To think out of the box one way or another and come up with something meaningful. My art will never be in a museum but that's not why I do it. I do it for love, for fun, and because when I do, I feel better, more at peace.
In these challenging days, you might feel that way, too.
This year is the first in two decades I won't be doing my November sale locally. However, many of my paintings, notecards and felties are available if you are interested!
I will happily send you a pdf of what is available at your request. Just let me know in the comments.
Because after all, the holidays are coming!