I remember that each Christmas brought me something artsy. In fact, my very first toy was a set of crayons and a wonderful book to color in. The secret joy of the Crayola smell and the fresh, uncolored page is still a vivid and fond memory of mine. What is NOT so fond to remember is the strictness of the rules of those toys. Don't waste paper, put your crayons back in the box and don't get anything on your hands. Of course that last reminder came with my first set of watercolor paints...oh the joy of that metal box and all of those little squares of color...96 colors and a brand new brush. The joy that memory gives me is balanced by the sadness that those paints remained untouched through all the years I lived at home. I was terrified to mess them up!
As soon as it became apparent that my ability went beyond a child's artistic playfulness the lessons began. What a delight to be able to paint so that each fold in my painting looked like it could be unfolded. The lines just so; the blending perfect...the hands clean and at the end of the long oil brush. Sit up straight, hold your brush just so and create a masterpiece.
In the 50's & 60's it was not about building a child's self-esteem. It was about perfecting the child. So while I loved being creative and painting, sewing and designing I went about each act with the knowledge that making mistakes was not acceptable. Having fun was in the creative act. Coloring outside the lines was a disgrace. Coloring someone green was unheard of and of course, unacceptable. How I managed to continue creating with all of my now, self-imposed rules, is a miracle. But create I did in everything I did I was as perfect as possible.
Fast forward decades and the now 55 yro child/woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and given a 40% chance of survival. Does she do it perfectly...being the good patient and following all the rules? HELL NO!! By the time some one had given me an expiration deadline I was so rip roaring mad that I basically told them all to go to hell and I would just go about my life ignoring any pain or illness. And for the first time I noticed that my art started to get playful.
During those months of chemo the recurring theme throughout my art was of Women with wings missing hands but dressed in colorful collaged dresses. And I discovered that on eBay there was a group of artists painting small like I was in what was then called 'art cards' and later ACEOs. 2.5 x 3.5 watercolor paper cards that I sold sometimes for prices that astounded me. Once again I slipped back into the perfectness of my art because I was now selling to collectors who expected a certain 'look'. For 6 years I painted as only I could with each line just so, color balanced to perfection and boring as hell to my creative child who had come out to play for such a short while.
Then one day I saw a blog post about a woman who painted so freely it looked like art from a talented 7 year old child. Such joy, such total freedom and such an impossible task for me to emulate. I bought the Somerset magazine that featured her on the cover and reveled in her unique and began to look for her art on line. On Etsy I saw her rapidly collecting fans and I could only sigh and wish that I could be so popular with my now staid line of digitally altered photographs. I signed up for her emails and every once in awhile one would come along announcing something that would make me wish I could paint like she did.
The day the email announced a star bunny class I decided it was time to be a rebel and act like a 7 yro child. Something I had missed the first time around. I signed up for that first class and found out that being free had a price. For me it meant cutting off my beautifully manicured nails and filing them down to stubs so I could use my fingers to paint. It meant switching the brush from my trained right hand to my non-dominant left hand so that I could create a free and loose looking drawing...but more than anything it meant facing my biggest fear...the fear of not being perfect.
I've only been fighting this battle for a few days as I completed the star bunny class and moved on to her PYS (Paint Your Story) class but it's still a gut wrenching feeling. I AM AFRAID to let loose and have fun. So every day I have to promise myself that it will be ok to make mistakes and that the echo of my Aunt's voice telling me to be careful has to be silenced once and for all. I NEED to do this for me. I NEED to have FUN with my art. Otherwise it will continue to be what it has always been over the last 40 years...just a JOB. I want it to be a mystical experience...a movement of hand on paper without thought as to where the color should go. That painting green on a person's face is the RIGHT thing to do. That maybe, this time, I will finally be able to let loose and just BE!
This is the first of my Happy Paintings...finger painted and left hand drawn.