Why do you paint? Sculpt? Draw? Write? Play and/or compose music? Have you asked yourself those questions, and have you counted on those interests and talents to get you through this very difficult time in our country?
Why do I paint/do art? I really think that “playing” with paint in my studio (my friend Jerry Smith says I play with paint, and he’s right) is one thing that has helped me to survive–at least so far–this current pandemic. One reason I paint is because I really am a life-long learner. People ask if I taught art. I didn’t. I taught literature and writing. However, I was never far from the nearest art class, and I was always made to feel welcome when I walked in to see what the art students (and teacher) were doing. I was a familiar face in the art room in every school where I taught.
One reason why I paint–and why my preferred genre is watercolor–is because it’s difficult for me. As a learner, I don’t get better by doing what’s easy. I get better by doing things that challenge me. I’m also a writer, and writing is easy for me. Even in college, if I were given a choice between taking a test as a final exam or writing a paper, I always wrote the paper because I was likely to get a better grade.
When I received a grant from the Lilly Foundation about 20 years ago, that grant provided me with dollars that I could use to study the connections between painting and writing (story is one connection, by the way). I never took an art class in high school because there were no art classes to take. Therefore, when I got the Lilly grant, I gathered all the courage I could muster and signed up for my very first art class. I was very nervous. I dreaded the thought of being terrible and embarrassing myself, but I enrolled in my first class at the Indianapolis Art Center, and I went. My first teacher there was WSI member J. Anna Roberts, and she was kind and talented, and I was grateful. She told all of us to keep the first thing we ever painted as a touchstone of where we started. I still have that painting, and while I will never be a spectacular watercolor artist, I can guarantee you that I am considerably better than I was when I started. W-A-Y better–which gives you some idea of where I was when I started.
Even though I had no formal art training, I’ve taken many classes from artists whose work I admire. That Lilly summer I took a WC class with the late Rob O’Dell, a lovely and generous man. I ended up taking more than one class from Rob.
I paint because I’m curious and I like people and I like the creativity that exists even in conversation with a group of artists. I learn SO much from other people. Pandemic or no pandemic, masked, gloved, it’s all OK because I’m going to keep painting and hoping that the next brush stroke I put on paper will be a stroke of genius.
But that’s just my opinion.
Paint beautiful things and be kind to each other.