The classroom next door has a heart on it and I thought it was beautiful. I thought it added a touch of love to a functional, old blue door. So I took a picture of it, added it to my collection of hearts and posted it on Facebook. Then I heard the story.
The class next door has 10 students and 3 teachers. Some of the students don't communicate with words, some don't get around by walking, and some are emotionally dented, not wrecked, just dented. It is difficult for them to be in other classrooms. I have the privilege of seeing them Monday through Friday, whether if it's in the form of a wave, or their attendance in my art room.
I've never met the student who made the heart, but his teacher told me the story. When he came to school on the first day of February he was determined. He is non-verbal and communicates with his actions, gestures and signals. He is likely to repeat the words you say to him. He is autistic. That morning he gestured to his teacher, rather urgently, that he needed a paper, a red marker and a pair of scissors. She gave him the supplies and he went to work. He quickly created an exquisite heart. The teacher complimented him on his creative endeavor and went back to work with the rest of the class. A few minutes later she noticed he was gone. She thought this was unusual, but assumed he went out to use the bathroom. He did return promptly and when he did, she asked about the heart; who it was made for, and if he made it for someone special. But he had forgotten about the heart by then. It was time to get back to his daily routine. For a moment, the heart was forgotten.
Later in the morning the class left for brunch. When the last student left and closed the door, no one looked behind. It wasn't until they returned that they saw what happened. The heart was on the door, not the inside, but the outside. It was placed ever so carefully, centered, at eye level (his), secured with four pieces of tape. The student, in love and excited about the gifts of February, was speaking to everyone that behind this door, there was love. And the best way to communicate that was not to talk, he couldn't say how much he felt loved and wanted to share love, but with a few simple supplies, a piece of paper, a marker and a pair of scissors, he made a heart.
You see, it is true. Art is love. Love is art and life is artful, no matter how you look at it.
Dedicated to my sister who dedicated her life to teaching children who needed a little extra love.
Today, the last day of February is her birthday. She would have been 59.
Lately I've been painting words into my pictures, like there is a personal philosophy behind their intention. It slows me down. I have to be in sync with the process of writing, instead of painting. But then the writing becomes the painting. The process starts to puts me in a peaceful space, aware and thoughtful. It's hard to meditate, at least in the traditional sense, but when I paint words, I would have to say it brings me to a space where there is balance. Painting words doesn't give me things, it takes them away; anger, denial, bitterness, fear, anxiety.
Sometimes they're poems, sometimes they're single words, and sometimes they're systems of words and phrases. They aren't planned. They connect with the paint.
My sister died last September. She was 58 and had lived her life with cancer for 17 years. Hero, courage, passion, drive, calm, love. Painting words allows me to slow down.
falling on deaf ears, pen and ink, 11 x 14"
Let's face it. It's happened to the best of us and most likely to all of us. "no, not now, it isn't a good fit, maybe next time, keep trying, wrong size, wrong color, what is it anyway?" The oh so familiar words of rejection!
Do we ever get used to this? What will it take?
I think that it takes acceptance that it will happen. When you accept that it will happen, you get used to it. When you get used to it, you are able to continue to put yourself forward. When you see rejection as something extraordinary or exceptional, than you shy away from moving forward with your work, your life, your art career. You can avoid rejection, but in doing so, you also avoid approval, acceptance and acknowledgment.
So, where do you stand? In the safe zone avoiding rejection or in the risk zone moving yourself forward in your art career? For me, I am re-entering the art world after a long (15 year) break! During my break, I had many career accomplishments and successes. I could put a value on success and that value was associated with a dollar amount and a position. As an artist, it is more complicated to put a value or definition of success - how much do you earn? what is your work worth? when do you call yourself a "professional" artist? does a "professional" title come with a dollar amount? what does it mean to be a successful artist? any ideas?
During this re-entry period I have vacillated in the safe zone for a long time, ironically trying to figure out what it felt like to be an "artist" again. For so long I was concerned about what "good" art was, or "important" art. (Maybe my academia was rearing it's head a bit too much)! Now I think that it really doesn't matter. I have come to the conclusion that even "bad" art is "good" art! Everyone has the ability to create and be successful in their creative endeavors. Art contributes to society and personal well being no matter what!
I've also learned that rejection and acceptance are like two sides of the coin - you don't get one without the other. It's a normal part of the process. Persistence - persistence - persistence! Paradoxically, the less you resist, the more you accept, the more you allow yourself to feel the disappointment the more you get used to it (in a good way) and the less painful it will be. That's the resiliency.
Unfortunately though, we take it personally. And if anyone tells you that you shouldn't take it personally, they don't know what it means to be an artist who makes stuff. Most artists put their heart and soul into their work, so of course it feels personal. In fact, if it hurts, than that's a good thing - it means you care, because simply put, once you stop caring, you ... just stop.
So, as I re-enter into the world of art and I call myself an artist again, I will give myself my own pep talk. Get used to rejection - get used to rejection by just showing up and accepting the risks. It's nothing I'm not already familiar with. I will accept that I might take it personally and that's okay, because I care, and I don't ever want to stop doing that!
Light changes, moves, forms.
In our own lives. Creates, destroys, changes.
A radiant light moves gently and swiftly in and out.
Taking what it does and giving its all. A dance.
Of melody, light and rhythm. Fearful gets peaceful.
God, majesty, power. Splendid.
Undefined change and infinite possibilities. Light. Pure, simple, perfection to play. And disappears.
My father was a keen paint by numbers master. He encouraged the creativity in all of us.
It's important to find the creativity inside of you, no matter what it is.