“To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut
What is art? It is the act of creating something entirely new, releasing pieces of your soul into the ether, and thereby adding to the depth and the meaning of the very universe itself.
Even if it’s a rudimentary scribble, or a lopsided clay pot you bravely threw on a potting wheel despite your suspicion that you have no right to even be near a lump of clay, something has happened. Something has changed. You stuck your toe on the mysterious waters of creation, the origin of our very existence. That’s heavy.
I recently went home and visited my mom, finding myself surrounded, as usual, by my child self in the form of art. There are all stages of my life represented on the walls and shelves of my mother’s house in the form of paintings, ceramics, poems, photos, and recipes (yes, cooking is art! Oh, is it art!)
None of this art I made is museum worthy, whatever that means, and some of it is downright hideous—I spotted a pair of pink hippos with crossed eyes and lumpy thighs I’d sculpted in grade school pushed to the waaaaay back of a book case; hippos so grotesque, even my eternally proud mother tried to downplay their presence.
Also found; a flat blue clay pond with ducks and reeds poking up in strange angles out of the “water,” a poem I’d written about seeing a dead armadillo on the road in Florida, a bead bracelet held together with tangled nylon threads and an oversized button, and a (framed) watercolor of a praying mantis doing something unspeakable to the warped iris I had set him upon.
As an adult, I like to believe my art has achieved a greater level of sophistication. I’m still no Hurston, Klimt, Ansel Adams or Julia Child, but generally my writing is respectable, my painting spirited, my photographs well received and my cooking downright delicious.
But, I don’t need to do any of it. Im still not making anything all that awesome.
Why not just read great literature instead of writing blurb-y little articles? Why not hang somebody else’s painting or photographs on my wall? Even a reproduction; John Singer Sargent? Albrecht Durer? And why, why not just pick up a deep dish pizza with loads of farmers market vegetables and caramelized edges made by Burt from Burt’s Pizza, an actual pizza artist, who refuses to make more than 10 pies a day and has no employees other than himself and his wife, because the integrity of the food might be compromised?
Why? It’s not like any of my art is going to change the world. Or is it?
Making art changes the world by changing the artist who makes it.
No matter how much drivel you might be typing up on your Mac late at night because you can’t sleep, because your boyfriend dumped you, or your dog died, or you got demoted to salad man at the restaurant where you hoped to be head chef, that drivel is self reflective. You are processing feelings and information. In doing so, you are courageously allowing yourself to evolve and ready yourself for the next round of life. We can do this through any art form, digging the painful fragments of ourselves out and gaining an invaluable and fresh perspective.
But that’s not all. If it was, we’d just call it therapy.
There is an excitement that accompanies the contemplation, the process, and the completion of an artwork, no matter how un-magnificent it might end up being. It’s the feeling of inspiration, hope (hope that something magic might happen), and deep satisfaction when whatever magic there was to be culled from the muse, was culled, and the moment wasn’t allowed to slip away.
Everyone gets to feel this…if they allow themselves to. If they don’t let perfectionism or ego or fear of failure get in the way. And the more magic we allow ourselves to feel, and help create, the more magical we, and the world become.
But I’m no artist, you say.
There is a great children’s book I used to read my son called “The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds. In it, a little girl named Vashti is sitting, staring angrily at a blank piece of paper in her art class. When the teacher asks, “What is the matter?” Vashti says,”I just can’t draw!” The teacher replies, “Just make a mark and see where it takes you.” So Vashti stabs at the paper with her pencil and looks up defiantly at the teacher. The teacher says quietly, “Good. Now sign it.”
The next day Vashti came to school, and she saw that the teacher had hung her signed dot, beautifully framed, on the wall at the front of the classroom. She thought to herself, “I can do better than that!” So she began to draw all sorts of dots, big and small, colored and textured. “She even drew a dot by not making a dot,” surrounding the negative space in the center of the paper with bright orange paint.
She signed and hung each of these works of art upon the wall proudly. She had been transformed from an angry, self doubting girl into an Artist.
Don’t be afraid to make your mark. In whatever medium you choose, and the mediums are endless really, allow yourself to transform something, thereby finding yourself transformed. Tap into the alchemy of creation. Your spirit and everything around you was created. You are part of the life force; feel it, play with it. You’re invited to the party. Just don’t forget to sign your name before you leave.
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Ed: Sara Crolick