Before you scoff that you are NOT an artist, please pause that thought.
Read this then close your eyes:
An artist is not found in a museum or a gallery. Artists dance amidst their lives (frenzied, still, lost, curious) or among elements they feel are their vocabulary (color, light, words, wood, food, movement). Artists spin a vision, a moment, an experience, a universe from what attracts & repels us. Artists create from what speaks to them. Artists speak to us through their creation.
When was the last time you felt you were an artist?
Close your eyes. Sit with this question. Let it come.
When I was just a newbie to this world, when each day was FULL of discovery & freshness, I TREASURED my box (with a built-in sharpener) of 64 Crayola crayons. My mom would buy pads of giant newsprint paper & I would lose myself drawing technicolor worlds of my imagining. I often gave these worlds to people not because I thought they were masterpieces but because I poured my joy & love onto the page. And it made sense to me that in sharing my creation I was sharing joy & love.
One super-happy drawing in particular I gave to my pediatrician. Which makes me laugh because I was PETRIFIED of doctor visits. I put up a robust fight every time that fingerprick needle appeared. I wanted my doctor to know I liked him despite my tussling, so I created a happy drawing to brighten his day. He hung it on his door for months. I felt like he got it. We were sharing joy.
Fast forward through school, graduation, first jobs, seeking & losing myself.
I was walking my pup in a quiet alley in downtown Atlanta. I was soon to have surgery for skin cancer on my toe. The midday sun was baking the bricks underfoot. Goldenrod-yellow flowers bloomed amidst weeds clamoring for purchase along the road’s edge. I felt like I had woken up in someone else’s life. How had I gotten here? Who was looking back at me in the mirror?
I had just moved to this neighborhood after emerging from a dark personal time; I was working, but on projects that weren’t lighting my fire; I was telling myself my black wardrobe was New York chic, but I was wondering where my color had gone.
My Crayola box magic had LONG been replaced by a BOX of SHOULDs. You know the one. The giant box that makes OTHER people uncomfortable if you aren’t putting a checkmark by it: job, retirement plan, marriage, kids, house.
At that moment, I had none of those SHOULDS. I felt I was supposed to be aiming for them, but the thought of them didn’t bring me joy. They made me feel tightly clenched.
THAT MOMENT WAS THE MOMENT. I remembered I was an artist.
WAAAAY back, lifetimes ago, I knew the memory of creating with abandon. Of afternoons becoming evening without my realizing … completely absorbed in drawing, making up stories, creating hand made books, making believe worlds and bringing them to life.
Of sharing creations purely to share joy.
I knew then that my joy was in creating. I didn’t need to know what that might look like or to have a 5-year plan. It was enough (& everything) to know who I was. To meet myself again. As an artist.
My photographic life sprouts from this singular moment.
It is a powerful identity. It is our essence.
We can be artists of midwifing dreams, of daring, of connecting with people, of cookery, of conning, of theater, of symphonies on canvas and painting with music. We can be artists of animal rescue, of chemistry, of prose, of athleticism. We are artists of living. Artists of discovering our soul, of expressing our voice, of this moment.
Look beyond the BOX we have deposited ourselves in. Let our childhood Crayola box, whatever that might have been for you, take us to the places where we are free to play, to create, to share with joy.
Our artist is there, ready to dance.
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