Art is a many splendored thing. True art can call up in us nostalgia or warmth or amusement or awe or a connection to God; a place of deeper thought.
Art is not just for “artists”. It is for children and soccer moms and ballers and uncles and cat ladies and farmers and business men.
Art is a painting. Art is a poem. Art is a sketch on a paper napkin. Art is wildflowers in a vase. Art is meal served with love. Art is a carefully crafted vintage of wine. Art is a garden tended. Art is dedication and intention.
No one is beneath art. And no one is above it. Whether you are the one creating art or experiencing it, art creates moments where we can burst through the obscurity of humanity and say, “This is who I am; this resonates with me.”
My own love affair with art started at a young age. Like most children, I loved art class and couldn’t get enough of it. My love for art class followed me through high-school darkrooms and ceramics studios and ultimately influenced my decision to study art education at the U of I.
With a BFA in hand, I set off to change the world as an art teacher. Finally, my childhood dream was realized; art class all day, every day.
Except, I wasn’t making art.
Of course, there was the art of teaching, and the creating of art projects with my students. And there was a lot of joy to be found in that. But I found I had been neglecting the very ideals I was working so hard to empower my students with: Make art; find yourself; share it with the world.
As an art teacher I had often quoted the infamous Picasso: “Every child is an artist, the problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” And yet, there I was. A grown up with a box of dried up oil paints.
Art began to feel like a distant relative. A second cousin twice removed. I wondered if my artistic abilities and passions had faded with time.
Like a foreign language once mastered, would art come back to me if I began to speak again? Would I stumble over simple phrases? Would the pen flow freely?
I feel as though I might not be alone in this fear.
Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, there may be a form of art in some aspect of your life you have put aside for a time; Those running shoes sitting undisturbed in your closet, a dusty cello case in the attic, a patient sewing machine in the basement, or beautiful words quietly tucked away inside a box of journals.
For some reason we’ve stopped doing those things that made us feel alive and free. When did we cease trying? It’s been so long that even though we remember the glorious feel of our feet crushing against gravel, we resist the act of putting on the running shoes.
What if I lose my breath? What if I look stupid? What if I fail?
What have you got to lose?
So you lace up. You step outside. And you start moving.
You might get a side cramp in the third block.
You could pop a string or bend a bow.
You may break a needle or two.
You might hear crickets when you share your story.
You might even make a crappy painting (or two), and cry into a glass of wine (or two).
But you might not.
And even if you do falter, (which is the nature of humanity) you have planted a seed. And if you water that seed, it will grow.
Art will grow into something uniquely beautiful that you never would have known had it been left un-nurtured.
That is the art of art.
This past year I’ve been learning how to nurture art back into my life. Slowly, I’m remembering how to capture an impression in time on the pages of an essay, the wonder of nature in a photograph, or a feeling of vibrancy in a watercolor painting. For me, making art again is like coming back to an old friend. It’s familiar and different all at once.
But most of all it’s just good.