Thursday, April 10, 2014

More Thoughts About Art

                I love when a theme runs through my life for a short time.  The subject at the moment is art.  As I wrote last week, I believe we all have creativity residing inside of us that if we are to express it in some form, life will be that much richer.  Well, Friday evening I read excerpts from a Julia Cameron book about children and creativity.  Here is a quote I especially liked.  “The act of making art is both scary and healing.  Art brings light to places that have remained dark.  Art brings perspective.  Making art, at any level, is an act of courage and an expression of faith” Location 495. 

                When my husband deployed to Iraq, the day after he left I went to a number of stores.  Once I came home, I draped red, white, and blue fabric in an alcove above the television.  I placed a number of 4th of July decorations on top of the fabric.  The display was very artist and soothed my soul.  Years later, when my oldest child left for BASIC training, I knew I would miss him terribly.  I removed all the items from his room.  With the help of my daughter, we redecorated the room with two new colors, a horse border, a painted tree and clouds.  The room is darling and helped me get through the first couple of weeks.  Because of my artistic projects, I was able to transition easier to the changes in my life.  Art is very healing and keeps the darkness away from me.

                Art education is very important for children.  “If schools do not, in general, foster creativity, then the responsibility falls on the parent to find these opportunities.  If art classes are not offered at our children’s schools, then we must find or create opportunities for our children to explore the arts” Location 403.  I want to take that even a step further.  We need to create fun art for them within the home.  Now, I cringe when my children want to paint.  I want everything to be tidy and perfect.  Over the years, I have worked very hard at letting them paint anyway.  I have spent hundreds of dollars finding new creative projects to attempt.  Of the three children, I have tried to teach two of them to crochet.  I have printed hundreds of coloring pages.  Lately, my youngest has found sites on the internet showing her how to draw her favorite characters.  And I praise every effort they make even if it makes me wonder what they are attempting.  We have been fortunate to have a good art education in our schools, but the teachers can’t teach it all.  I have built on their education to show my children how they can continue to learn and explore all areas of art: writing, music, cooking, drawing, pottery, painting, crocheting, and other areas.

                I also model the creative process at home with both successes and failures.  “As parents, we have a responsibility to model imperfection, especially if we are adept in an area that interests our child” Location 308.  I do this all the time.  My kids know I am not the best at anything I do and that is awesome.  This gives them the freedom to be an amateur.  “Amateurism-which translates to “for love”-is a wonderful goal as we urge our children not to be perfect, but to explore creative outlets for pleasure and for pleasure along, without the pressure of someone else’s “perfect” performance as the only worthy goal” Location 323.  My kids, husband, and friends still tease me about our pink house.  I was tired of having a drab colored house to come home to everyday after work.  I wanted a fun, unique color.  Boy did I get it.  I swear the chip looked like brown with a tinge of purple.  Coming home one evening after a day of work, the sun touched the garage wall in just the right light, pink.  My house was pink!  Failure.

Now, I do strive to do a good job on every task I accomplish.  I do not strive for perfectionism any longer.  “Perfectionism is not a quest for the best-it is the pursuit of the worst in ourselves, the part that tells us we will never be good enough.  Perfection is egotism parading as virtue” Location 338.  Wow, that quote says a lot.  I also believe that when I strive to be perfect, I end up being a blocked artist.  Instead, I try to laugh at my flaws in all I do.  Now granted, I struggle with my flaws in the area of writing because I want to be great.  I want the world to read my work.  However, the other side of me will be happy if all I write for are my children.  I leave my career up to God, though I move ever forward.  But when it comes to my artistic hobbies of gardening, painting, crocheting, and the like, I smile at the imperfection of it all and enjoy the process.

                In the book, Julia wanted the reader to reflect on this unfinished statement, “If I didn’t have to do it perfectly, I would try ________” Location 343.  I have been putting off a couple of projects.  So this summer I will try making stepping stones, wooden quilt squares, wine or mead, and barbed wire art.  If you didn’t have to do it perfectly, what would you try?

Friday, April 4, 2014

Art Participation

                On Monday, a college student stopped by the house.  He asked me to edit a paper he had due for educational psychology.  About twenty years ago, I took the same type of class.  I forgot how fired up I can still get when discussing education.  I only taught for three years, but my passion still resides in my heart.  The topic of the paper was art.

                I believe our education system does a disservice to the discipline of any form of art: writing, music, painting, welding, and the list can go on.  Through all my years of art class and music, I was never taught how I can express the creativity in these areas for the remainder of my life outside the classroom.  Granted, I listen to music and sing in the church congregation, but I never learned the ability to play on my own or with a band.  I watched my son go through band and his teacher taught them to do just that.  In fact, one of my son’s classmates is excited for when he goes to college so the two of them can start playing their gigs again.  With my daughter, I am helping her learn by the instructor I hired.  She will soon be playing guitar for our church.  Hopefully both my children will continue on with music more then I have.

                Growing up, I always felt like a failure at art.  My entire educational career, I only once felt like I created something beautiful and that was a project we did with lines.  I actually received an A and it looked better then all my classmates.  Thus, when friends of mine comment that I am an artist, I laugh.  Not me.  I did horrible in art class.  Yet, if I am honest with myself, I am very artistic in interior design, gardening, and crafting.  Unfortunately, we are not taught to appreciate, succeed, or grow in these areas through the education system.  How did I reach my success?  I have watched hours of design and gardening shows on the Home and Garden network.  (I am sad to say that I don’t like the programming as much in the last five years.  They have turned to huge construction projects or buying and selling.  I like the easy programming that an amateur like myself can complete.)  They gave me the courage to try the work on my own.  I have had some whopping failures, but through those failures I have learned and grown. 

                Hum, that is another lesson I wish was taught.  We need to learn how to fail.  When I was young, I stopped participating in what I failed at or was mediocre at even if I loved the task.  I stopped playing basketball and volleyball because I was not athletic enough to make the teams.  I also feared criticism because I grew up with the impression that everything has to be perfect or it shouldn’t even be attempted.  Why do we have to be good/perfect at something to continue studying and participating in that activity/sport?

                The answer is we don’t have to be good.  I look around my house at the painting I have accomplished.  I see a lot of flaws.  I won’t be an interior design professional, but it will continue to be a major hobby.  Some people in my life delight in pointing out the flaws.  I either ignore them or make the statement that I saved a chunk of cash because I did it myself and had fun.  I also pity those people because they will never know the joy of accomplishing a project and seeing how they become better at the work as times goes by.  Other people compliment me.  I appreciate these people tremendously.  They are positive and see the value in the process.

                I have worked at teaching my children the value of attempting tasks and having a blast even if they are not very good.  Will my daughter play college softball?  I don’t know nor care.  I care that she plays on the city team when she is forty.  Will my son become the next Louis Armstrong?  It doesn’t matter.  I do want to hear him play when I am sixty.  Will my oldest become the next Bobby Flay?  Who cares?  I just want him to continue to enjoy his passion even if he burns a dish. 

Life is about the creative journey.  What is your passion?  Go out and participate!