Creativity and artistic expression are our birthright..or so I read in a self help book in early recovery 24 years ago. . Are we truly just born with an innate sense of how to see the world in a creative way, before the trenches of life’s offerings bury deep that longing? What if after all the negative messages ( intentional and unintentional) one receives, nothing is left in that space that creativity holds but the dummied down, diluted version, afraid to draw outside the lines? Staying inside the lines assures that I will not make a mistake, and that I will keep to some belief I have bought into, that I must be perfect and orderly in some way. It changes the way I see things, only looking for the representational in everything, closing my mind to the possibilities.
I see this response in others when I share with them I am an artist. Some of the first things they usually offer up to me are “I am not creative at all. I can’t draw or do anything like that. I wouldn't know where to start. I don’t have a creative bone in my body. ” Inside my heart, I soften and compassion floods my being for this person, sometimes a total stranger. I see my reflection in them, and want to take them to all the secret places I have held inside of me, to show them what is possible when I uncovered the layers that shrouded my own creative processes for almost 50 years. I was that person. I drew stick figures, and believed if I couldn't draw a figure with perfect looking proportions, or make a life like drawing of my own accord, from a picture in a magazine, for example, then surely I was not creative or talented. It is no surprise that I am drawn to work in layers now, to find the Hidden Underneath. Revealed within them are pieces of my history ,and the art that I find a need to create out of them. When I could not see myself for the creative person who I really was, I would forever defend the layers underneath, because in exposing them, I must show you who I am.
I just finished 6 intense days in the print studio I rent from time to time. It is a luxury I cannot afford but must afford. I had to tear myself away at each day’s end, almost as if I was afraid of there not being a beginning again. I can’t pour the ideas out fast enough, nor can I change the fact that the learning process of polymer plate printmaking can yield one technical mistake after another. No matter what notes I have, workshop or class I took, or how hard I seem to try not to , mistakes I will make. Hopefully, before I get too insanely frustrated, I will learn from them. Sometimes they are the most powerful, or beautiful of mistakes. They are the ones I keep and treasure.
I had the grace of working with Keith Howard, master printmaker and teacher, last month. He took me to the press the first day, and as a print would roll off, he would say “now turn it around and put the plate back on the other way and send it back through”. He could see my horrified expression. He could hear it in my small little vulnerable voice responding “really” ? This went on for some time, until he was standing there watching me on my own, He had me adding different plates on top of one another, taking them outside the boundaries of the first print line, adding chine colee,, then using collage to add a piece on top of another. He knew where I needed to go creatively, and just gave me active permission to do it. "What if" he would ask, and I followed the bread crumbs down the trail he had marked for me. I am so grateful to him for that. I observed his wife, Bernice, taking a plate I might have thrown away as it “didn't turn out” and cutting it into pieces and then using them on top of a larger plate. She just kept rolling with it. Her work was so full of emotion, so rich, so uniquely her and so wonderfully, utterly creative.
Creativity is a big word for what makes your heart sing (or cry out) in an artistic way. That is my definition…doesn't matter what venue in the Arts one takes to find that path..all roads lead there.
I used to draw stick figures. I used to say “I am not creative”. I would “WOW” at someone else’s artistic gifts and lower my eyes to the ground, so they couldn't see through me to the shame I had been reduced to inside. The embarrassment of not being comfortable in my own skin, and the lack of creative talent I felt I did not, and would never, possess; caused such separation in my being I would become an "IT" instead of a "ME". It was the lowest place I could go to hide emotionally, to protect myself from the truths I needed to find courage for to face and heal. Art gave me the space to that, and found me along the way. Discarded by the side of the road, bruised and bloody, it gave me a safe haven. Creativity, it seems, was what I had used to survive all those years. It was just disguised in a different form.
Creativity was, and is, my birthright, and now it has been returned to me. I brought “IT" back in to "Me", from a very lost, far away place. I own it now, it is mine, and it is no longer buried in "the artist that never was or could be" graveyard. My prayers sing out to all who tell me they aren't creative, that you will find your way home to your heart, and it will deepen. Art can heal you, if you let it. It is your birthright.