Letting Growth be your Catalyst - To my Art Teachers - Thank you!
When I was a kid, I really loved to draw. Not sure how I really started getting into drawing and painting. I guess a kid always can play with pencils and markers and then the magic may strike? Then as a parent you may realize that you have a young Picasso or a Michelangelo on your hands. I am no Picasso or Michelangelo, but you never know where growth will take you. At what point does a parent say, “my child has talent”? I guess as parents you want your child to do well in everything (or something in particular), but you continue to encourage your child and hope they continue to like whatever you are encouraging them to do.
I remember when I was 9 or 10 years old, I was with my grandmother and I met a well known painter in Charleston named Jim Booth (had to be either 1992 or 1993). My grandmother collected many of his paintings so you can say she was a big customer, haha. I would say almost everyone on James Island had a Jim Booth print in their home. It was the norm. For those of you who do not know Jim Booth, he is known for painting landscapes of the Low Country and cities surrounding Charleston. Vividly I can remember talking with him. I can’t remember the entire conversation but I do recall a portion of it that always stuck with me. He told me to “make sure to always save my paintings and drawings. Even rough sketches. It will be a very valuable tool when you get older.” When you are still a kid, what do you do with information like that? I don’t remember following up asking what he meant. I guess my grandmother overheard him because I don’t remember intentionally saving my drawings or paintings.
Well, luck struck last summer when I helped my mom clean out her attic. In all that clutter and all the boxes I came across several boxes with my name on it. On the side was written: “DO NOT THROW AWAY”. Inside those boxes, filled to the top, were my childhood drawings and keepsakes. It was a virtual time capsule of my past. It was surreal to go through.
In thinking of what Jim told me, it has taken me over 20 years to understand what he really meant. In my readings of other artists and blogs, artists have it easy in that we are visual people who may see something in an object or landscape when others do not. This visual form of art is also a visual scale of growth and when you see this scale (of your past paintings) it can be the catalyst for even further growth. Like I said in a past post, this is a journey I am struggling with, but it is a journey I am also enjoying because the destination is never fully determined until I quit. I don’t plan to quit.
Could this be what Jim meant?
When I looked through those boxes I kept thinking at what point did my parents think I drew or painted well? Honestly, I believe this all came about as an accident (Nature vs. Nurture?). I remember watching PBS a lot as a kid and I was just awestruck by Bob Ross (he came on right after Mr. Rogers Neighborhood……how do I remember this stuff?), and though he made it look so easy to have taken a blank stretch of canvas and make it something worth saving. It was fun to watch at the time. I believe we only had 20 channels then so maybe there wasn’t anything else to watch?
Now that I am an adult it is so easy for anyone to be judgmental, and/or to be hard on themselves about the work they do. This personal struggle of mine as I think everything I paint is awful or I am not totally happy with it. Maybe this is why painting loosely is so hard for an adult to master. We are too judgemental as an adult. We lose sight like a child and make everything so complicated as we grow older. We are always making simple ideas so complex. It is what we do as our left side of the brain steals the right sides creative thunder. In a book I read, the author/artist said that we must see everything like a child if you want to paint well – seeing the simple shapes and translating it to the canvas.
To carry on this thought, I had to think of a way to strengthen my perception of how I envision the photo or actual landscape to be. How could I do it? After much thought I glanced around my studio and noticed an old painting I did over 20 years ago [Winter Mountain; 20 x 24 in, Oil on Canvas – see below]. As I continued to focus on the painting I was fluided with a memory of me being very disappointed at the end result. I never took pride in hanging it anywhere. The initial inspiration was from a photo that I tore out of a magazine advertising Alaska. So I thought about it and the idea hit me to try this painting again. I feel like “seeing like a child” can be learned. It is just going to take some time to re-learn.
I think I owe a lot to my art teachers that I grew up knowing. I think many of them may be about to retire, but I wasn’t sure that I ever told them thank you for the lessons learned. Art class in school was always my favorite by far. Maybe right behind science class.
I remember all my art teachers that I had: Mr. Kacpura [Harbor View Elementary], Mrs. Easterby [James Island Middle], Mrs. Stafford [James Island High].
To all of you, thank you for opening my eyes to the power of art and what it can do in your life.
Painted in 1997:
What 21 years of growth can bring…