“Clean this mess off the table, it’s dinner time!”
I believed early on (around age 5) that I was very creative. While I received some positive reinforcement from time-to-time from parents (“Clean this mess off the table, it’s dinner time…oh, that’s nice, Carolann, now move it!”), teachers and fellow students (“Wow, yours looks just like mine!”), but one early and memorable incident sustained me until I re-discovered art in my mid-life. I was eating paste long before the rest of you even smelled it’s heavenly scent. I became Mrs. Palmer’s pet. Mrs. Palmer was our grade school’s art teacher. Using a noisy, rickety rolling cart, she traveled from room to room once a week, with a surprisingly large treasure trove of art supplies. And she was so pretty! She had a soft, encouraging voice and coming from a family of 7, trust me, no one EVER spoke to me in a soft voice. I had such a crush on her. And the day I heard in that kind voice, “Carolann, would you please give every student one piece of black construction paper? Thank you (sweet smile).” She had me at “Carolann” – only time I heard my name was in a borderline scream at home.
We had this modest little lighted showcase in our Indian Springs Grade 1-6 school lobby reserved for outstanding artwork. Being competitive – hey, as the middle child of five hungry and LOUD mouths, you can bet your hot cross buns I was a worthy competitor – my art was featured there frequently. And contests! I entered contests thanks to the encouragement of Mrs. Palmer.
A local department store sponsored a city-wide art contest for all grades and my Favorite TV Show art entry was chosen for display in the department store’s auditorium. A little white honorable mention ribbon was taped to my art! How was I to know that EVERYONE received a little white ribbon? I was so inspired. Do you want to know what my favorite TV show was? FLIPPER. Darn, I loved that smart little dolphin and dreamed of having a pet one some day, so quite natural I would draw a little Flipper dolphin inside a cool TV frame and even watercolored the network’s peacock over his head.
“Your art isn’t very good…..It really isn’t.”
In seventh grade, ego soaring on Mrs. Palmer’s praising wings, I eagerly (and a little cockily) signed up for art. And met the grouchy, miserable, mean Mrs. Wilcox. In the first week, we were drawing little fantastical big-eyed girl figures and I was so into it until I felt Mrs. Wilcox breathing on the top of my head, her perfume suffocating. “Your art isn’t very good, Carol. It really isn’t.” I ran from the room crying. And dropped the class. Give me a break. A 12-year old born in the 1950s should survive that unscathed? I quit making art and never picked it up until the late 5th decade of my life. That moment haunted me for years. Ahhh…be careful of your words, friend.
And then my life fell apart….
At a time in my life, in my 50s, when all I’d known as truth collapsed, I began to create again. When I say creating art saved my life, I mean it. I can’t tell you what drove me back to create, I can just tell you I jumped in with both feet and often felt I was creating in a mad frenzy. I read blogs, bought art magazines, took a few local painting classes – so hungry to learn. And something magical and transforming happened. I was regularly seeing a counselor to help me through my tragedy and slowly I began to believe I was ‘enough’. Perfect the way I was. I didn’t care what anyone thought of my art nor did I seek opinions, instead, I felt it was perfect. You’re probably rolling your eyes with that look that means, “poor dear, she was deceiving herself to protect her heart and everyone sees it but her”. Nope. My mind was super open, still raw from heartbreak but open and ready to receive. I became fearless to try every and any medium and product.
I am an artist and so are you. We are all born with the innate ability to create. I’m also a full-time yoga professional teacher so, here’s a take on the meaning of Namaste for art:
“The Artist in me sees and honors the Artist is you”