I remember the yellow ribbon. It hung beside my picture when I was in second grade. It was my first art award. My piece “In My Backyard,” elicited chuckles from my parents. “Whose backyard is that?” they both asked, as we looked at the 11x14 yellow construction paper with black cut-outs of people and a swing set. “Isn’t that ours?” I remember thinking but not saying out loud. Suffice it to say, it was my version of my backyard.
In sixth grade, I created my first acrylic painting. I used acrylic paint from small glass jars and painted on bumpy 4x6 paper that came in the kit. I painted poinsettias and my teacher submitted my painting to the city’s art competition. Open to artists from Kindergarten through 12th grade in Medford, Massachusetts. I was awarded “Artist of the Month.” My parents were confused. You see, I wasn’t supposed to be an artist. And, for a long time that would be true.
I set art aside until college. Drawing 101. Required. I Hated it. I Loved it. I drew everything around me. My blonde Windsor wooden chair. The long wool blue coat. My sneakers. Fruit. Lamps. Bottles. Boxes. I drew and drew – my most detailed pencil drawing of that beloved coat, framed with an ivory color mat, wasn’t picked for the college art show. I put the drawing away and didn’t look back. I wasn’t supposed to be artist after all.
25 years later…
My daughter off to college. My youngest son scheduled to leave for Navy boot camp. My eldest son soon to be off to Air Force boot camp. I went to our local community art school, where my kids had taken art classes in the years gone by. “Drawing-The Beginner and Beyond,” here I was, once again the beginner. I hated it. I loved it. Oh, my old friend…I loved it. And, I drew everything. Boxes. Balls. Chairs. Shadows. Pumpkins. The teacher gave us color. My drawings exploded with color. I drew and drew. I decided to try paint. First, watercolor – messy. Then, acrylic – magic. I took pictures when traveling for my half marathons. Trees. Doors. Bridges. Boats. Light. Shadows. Clouds. I’d draw them. I’d paint them. Art poured out of me.
Pottery wasn’t as magical of a story.
The first class was awful. A ball of clay flew off my wheel when I stepped on the pedal by mistake. Sludge flew all over me when I was trying to center, covering me in clay from head to toe. In my attempt to get my wheel and splash pan clean I left a trail, then a puddle of water on the floor. I was a disaster. I made nothing. My arms hurt. My hands had been rubbed raw from the grit in the clay. I was cold from being wet for hours. I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to go back.
Ironically, Angela Duckworth’s “Grit” theory would apply to my work with clay. As it’s taken a tremendous amount of grit and perseverance to keep going back to the wheel. I’m still working on all the parts of potting – sometimes centering is off. I still don’t make two of anything that look the exact same. I put holes in the bottom of my pieces when trimming. And, glazing is a great chemistry experiment that I sometimes get “right,” more often I manage a place somewhere between, “oh, I can live with that…” and “what did I do???”
Art is an amazing process. I sometimes get a “product”, yet, no matter what, I get the “process.” I am allowed free reign to think and feel – I’m allowed to be me, who is an artist. I’ve discovered as an artist; I can be anything.
My daughter is a junior at the University of Vermont. My youngest son is a sailor in the Navy stationed in Connecticut. My eldest son is an airman in the Air Force stationed in Texas. I have a small psychotherapy private practice in Massachusetts (www.tlgcounseling.com). My husband, myself, and Kitty (our adored orange tabby cat) travel around the US running in half marathons. And, I create art in my home "studio", the Currier Art Center, and Studio 550 in Southern New Hampshire.