I went to the Arts High School (Perpich Center for Arts Education) many years ago. Well, this past summer was my 21st annual reunion, and I haven’t seriously drawn or painted or sculpted/shaped clay since. But I remember the experience with a wistful longing like some remember past romances, with a mix of regret and heartache.
Like most late-teenagers, I took my situation for granted. We had immense amounts of materials available to us, and teachers constantly goading us into using it, experimenting with it, to practice the techniques and to explore the various methods and find our style. But I didn’t understand that. I just stuck to my tiny little preferred methods – colored pencils and ink, maybe a little acrylic. I just wanted to draw my things, the way I wanted to draw them.
Later, in college, I finally understood why those teachers were goading so much – because materials are expensive.
But, slowly, the desire to continue art was squashed. I had work go “missing”. I had expenses mount. I had to try to make a living, not just doodle. I listened to stupid people tell me what art is, instead of trying to find out what art is on my own. I let the arguments that art is useless into my head.
In short, I had a whole lotta stupid going on in my head. But I didn’t realize the stupid was actually stupid.
I let the product of my artsy-side wither. Not die, but wither.
It wasn’t gone, entirely, because every new computer I bought I would buy an upgrade to Photoshop and/or Corel Painter, or a new tablet, or scanner, or printer. I would make themes for this website, and figure out ways to allow people to select their own theme. I would play with UI elements to find things that looked good and felt right.
On a nostalgic whim I went back to an alumni day years later. This, after having worked in an office job for more than a couple of years, and I realized that art is a mindset, but not right away.
At that alumni day, I got the vibe from some people that I didn’t belong in the school anymore, with my suit and tie. Because I worked for a bank. Because I didn’t actively paint and draw to sell those works and afford life. That I had “sold out” to “make money.” It hurt a little, but it was a good-for-me hurt, because I had to reconcile it with the idea that I was still an artist.
I went home and, over time, pondered what art was. Why I still thought of myself as an artist. And whether or not I could draw again. But I was still thinking around the issue, nibbling at it like a goldfish at a huge loaf of bread, wanting to get to the center but not being capable of just getting right to it.
I went back to my tech job, with this thought riding the back of my brain like some sort of cranky old-person back-seat driver, and saw how art still informed my decisions.
While training people, I would doodle out concepts. While writing procedures, I would illustrate things. While troubleshooting issues I would sketch out relationships and connections, and I would evolve those diagrams into documentation for future issues. I saw the fact that I still bought digital tools for being artsy, and I used them, just only when I had a legitimate and direct need.
Now, many moons later, I still maintain two art boxes – one for drawing and coloring, another for painting. Two tackle boxes that are filled with potential. I still maintain a collection of variously textured and colorations of paper, some deliberately aged in slightly humid environments to offer that aged appearance. I still keep a stack of sketchpads, some partially filled, others pristine virginal books waiting for ideas.
But, I’ve fallen out of daily practice. I’ve fallen out of experimentation.
So, to circle back – how do I get re-involved with art?
This 21-year reunion kinda showed the way: I follow people on Facebook. I make a workspace. I set reminder on my calendar to make some art, with annoying pop-up reminders, for every night after work. And I peruse Amazon for easels and/or drawing boards. And I make posts on this blog, at least one, daily.
Thanks, reader, for participating in this rambling attempt to get to a point. I hope it provokes some thought for you. The act of writing has done so, for me.