Rediscovering Art

 

I ended that last post by noting that it was in the course of going through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way that I was struck by an urge to paint.

This was a first for me.

And let me just stop right there and note that there’s a reason I never painted before. It’s because I’m a bad painter. I mean, a really, really, really bad painter. I’m really not talented that way. (There actually aren’t words to properly stress how much this is true!)

But the very notable thing about this moment in time (August/September 2013, working through The Artist’s Way) is that I didn’t care. For the first time in really ever, I just didn’t care. I wasn’t concerned with what anybody thought about it. I wasn’t judging myself. I had an urge to paint…and that was that. I didn’t know where it came from – and I didn’t stop to analyze. Which meant I didn’t stop to talk myself out of it or allow self-consciousness to come in and ruin it. I just went with it.

I don’t quite know how this was due to The Artist’s Way. I can’t point to a particular passage or moment in reading that made the difference. But it most definitely was a result of working my way through that book.

I procured paints and brushes – and I just jumped in to painting. I immersed myself in color and image and the sort of free-form artistic exploration that I don’t think I’ve engaged in since I was a very young kid and spent my leisure hours drawing and cutting out paperdolls for myself. And it was so much fun!

It didn’t last that long, really. I kept at it on and off until about Christmastime – but the enthusiasm had largely burned off by late-October-ish. (I have zero desire to paint now…though I look back on that time very fondly!)

But a funny thing was left after the painting urge had dissipated (“funny” as in, totally unexpected): I realized that my former interest in visual art had rekindled. And more than rekindled, actually. It was fanned up to quite the powerful flame.

It was more than a former “interest” in art that I had, actually. I was more engaged than that. I actually have a master’s degree in Art History – but if graduate school did anything at all for me (beyond expanding my knowledge base adequately regarding one tiny sliver of medieval English history), it was to basically beat the joy out of art for me. My master’s thesis centered on the Norman Conquest of England, and the classes I took in support of that were interesting – though they weren’t ultimately about art so much as history. The rest of my classes, though? They seemed formulated specifically to take my ability to emotionally connect with art and force it into a stratified box. Theory was what was important in that place and – despite claims to the contrary by the faculty – a rigidity of thinking that was absolutely inhibiting to me.

I hated grad school. I don’t even think I realized how much I hated it until I re-connected with art. Prior to that, I would have (and did) use words like “unsatisfying” and “the wrong school for me” to describe my grad school experience. And those were definitely true. But also? I hated it. The experience tainted the arts for me for a long time.

I think I had started to take baby steps back toward rebuilding my personal tie to art in the year or so prior to this time I’m discussing (Fall 2013), thanks to opportunities to wander the (free admission!) museums of Washington, D.C. But The Artist’s Way somehow brought me the rest of the way back.

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The Hirshhorn, Washington, D.C. Spring 2012
My daughter, at the Hirshhorn, Washington, D.C. Spring 2012. (Access to the Smithsonian museums is hands-down the best thing about spending time in the D.C. area!)

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Besides suddenly feeling empowered to dabble in things like painting (who cares about talent! It’s fun!!), I also found myself, post-Artist’s Way, suddenly recalling things about art works and artists from my undergrad days. Tidbits would just pop into my head. Out of some dark recess of my mind emerged names like Jenny Holzer (I love Jenny Holzer’s work) – and I started researching them and reacquainting myself. It was really interesting, this attempt to remember what I knew academically, and also to recall why it had impressed me back in the day. And then from there to re-evaluate my feelings and opinions with my older eyes and the new framework I had now, grown of the completely different experiences of life I’d had since my undergrad days.

I found myself starting to write more at this time, too – for example, jumping into some fiction I’d been thus far sort of meekly toying with. As with the painting urge, I found that I suddenly didn’t care if I was capable or not of writing some of my ideas. I just jumped in and tried…and it was really fun! I was really enjoying myself.

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It was from this place of creative flow – creative flood, really! – that the next step on the path that leads to the present became discernible.

It started, as significant things do sometimes, when I followed a seemingly meaningless thread of internet info…

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To be continued…

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