Two evenings ago, I was watching a beautiful sunset full of the colors of sherbet. The sun kept highlighting the clouds in such a way that made me think, “I need to recreate this in a painting.” I wasn’t sure where the camera was, but I could have walked to get it. I didn’t, however because the scene kept changing and evolving, becoming richer the lower the sun moved.
I continued to watch and reflect; I was taken down multiple trails as my mind roamed through old memories. I was taken back to elementary school and the first day I met my art teacher. It was Open House night. She was standing just inside the doorway, welcoming each of the students along with their parents. There she was, with at least 8 earrings hooked into her ears, a long white apron and long, curly brown hair that seemed like a piece of art itself. She said something to my parents that I don’t recall. She was friendly and jovial. I remember nothing else from that evening or subsequent Open Houses. Just that moment of walking in the door, my parents standing behind me and this art teacher to my left.
At first I enjoyed reliving the moment, but then the question popped into my head: Why did that moment make such a deep impact?
I don’t know. It might have been the first time I saw someone with so many piercings and with a paint-covered apron, but I highly doubt it. It was the early nineties. That was the thing to do.
I reflected for a long while. My elementary art teacher was a free spirit, but with the reined in sensibilities of a teacher. She was genuine, spirited and fun. Maybe I thought, “Wow, a real, live artist! And she’s my teacher!”
I think there was something inside me that resonated with this person, who had a connection with art. It has been this way throughout my life. I have a catalog of art-related moments; moments when I was in an art class, memories of art museums, every conversation when someone encouraged me about my art, remembering just as many negative conversations.
I wonder if some of the reason I was so contemplative was due to me getting back into art. I want to be clear that only a year ago, I had decided to never paint, sculpt, draw again. I had had enough and wanted a different path. I buried it, along with my art supplies. I moved on leaving it in the dirt.
But what I didn’t realize was that wasn’t my decision to make. I know I have a gift with art, but I’m not the one who created that gift inside me, it was God.
I tried to turn a different way, “I’ll pick up a different gift and everything will be fine,” I said. But it is interesting how other people didn’t let that happen. It was as though they were strategically placed. I would be encouraged, subtly and not so subtly, by friends and family that my artwork was “so beautiful. Wouldn’t it be great to be in this gallery? Or maybe you could do “x, y or z?” At the time, I was resentful, I felt like those people weren’t listening to my words; I gave up art, didn’t you hear me? Insert stamping feet and balled up fists here.
Now, after some perspective, their kind words make sense along my timeline. I gave up art, but God had other plans. He showed me the demon I had made art into. It was stressful, it was a job, it was a chore, it was a source of horrible self-criticism. He never meant art to become that in my life. It was correct to give up the art I had created in order to embrace the idea of what God had created art to be for us.
I’m very grateful he re-taught me and had me remember through that sunset.
That sunset was like an affirmation. “Remember when you first walked into that art classroom, the teacher was smiling, while wearing her art apron, the smell was of paint and paper and whatever else creates that familiar art room smell? Remember the possibilities? Ah, yes, you do remember and you’re living in that newness again. Treasure it, guard it, relish it. It is a gift.”