Having grown up the child of artists, it naturally followed that those we interacted with and bonded with would lean towards the creative. And so, throughout this life, I have found myself surrounded by an abundance of talented friends. I gravitate to them like a bee to sweet and brightly colored flowers, and they seem to gravitate to me. It is as natural, as important, as breathing air.
A richly textured swirl of graphic designers, crafters, painters, illustrators, bakers, chefs, jewelers, beaders, seamstresses, quilters, knitters, every kind of fiber artist. A kaleidoscope of talented gardeners, musicians, designers, writers, singers, actors, woodworkers, builders, dancers and dreamers. It is a wonderful thing to be touched by so much creativity, both inspiring and awe-inspiring, evoking admiration. Also intimidating, because sometimes I have to wonder what it is that I can do well…….where is it exactly that I fit in?
Looking back at what has been accomplished and perfected over time, I have discovered that I am not really that good at any one thing at all; the quintessential Jill of All Trades who truly has not mastered a specific skill.
There are so many artistic endeavors I have sampled over the years, never able to settle down to focus on Just One Thing, suffering from a form of ADD that I would describe as Major Artistic Deficit Disorder. Not denying my share of inherent talent, to a degree…….the “deficit” does not lie in the lack of potential but in the inability to settle into one task. One of my Extremely Creative Friends tells me that is part of my problem – that I should not be so scattered and spread so thin, that I have to choose something and just concentrate on that, just immerse into that One Thing to bring it to a higher level of skill. Of course, this makes absolute sense. But it is something that has been almost impossible to accomplish.
“Back in the Old Days”, those golden days before accepting Total Responsibility, those days when time stretched out endlessly before us, where every day was a new adventure, when we were young and immortal and anything was possible….back then it seemed every day dawned with the potential of another creative adventure. There was always a drawing in progress, a project to be dyed or painted, a new song to learn, something to sew or re-design or embellish. The parameters of originality were challenged, all the way down to the way we dressed. There is something so satisfying about immersion into the artistic project – almost to a compulsive degree. For some people, it is a necessity. It had always been for me. But it seems somewhere along the way I have veered off the path and am desperately struggling for more of that fresh air.
When did it stop? What happened? It is not as if there wasn’t potential and interest there. My children’s clothing, when they were younger, was hand-made, embellished and unique. I quilted. I put rush seats in chairs and stenciled them, refinished furniture, wrote and illustrated an (unpublished) children’s book, took up photography, developed and printed my own black and white photos. I painted designs on tee-shirts to sell at craft fairs, painted logos and hippie art on cars and clothing, embroidered pictures on fabric and on denim jeans and jackets, dabbled in batik, painted in water-color and ink wash. I sold some illustrations to be used as props in made-for-television-movies and designed a logo for a friend’s business, made and sold ethnically inspired beaded jewelry. I sang in a couple of bands. I tried to learn piano, guitar, mandolin and clarinet, although never really stuck with any of them enough to master. Over the more recent years I have taken up middle eastern drumming and re-learned to crochet (a little). Beyond this, I actually have a degree in Visual Arts.
But there has been no centering, no perfecting of a craft, absolutely nothing that is done so well that you would stop and say “She is an illustrator (or a quilter, or a singer, or……….). I want to know it all. I know not enough of any of it.
The unfinished applique quilt has been sitting in the box for almost thirty years. I would take it out periodically, look at it, and then could not bear to deal with it. The child it was meant for now has children of her own. The cookbook I compiled just needed to be proofed before being passed on to a friend who had graciously offered to set it up for publication….for over ten years now. The children’s book I wrote, illustrated and did a mock-up dummy for has been sitting in a trunk for twenty years.
More often than not, for some reason strangers will approach me and ask, “Are you An Artist?” At my very core I want to say “Yes”. But then the following question, the inevitable “What do you do?” does not correlate, leaving an awkward, uncomfortable pause. Often I think taking on a full-time job that veered away from artistic inspiration has been the dagger to the heart of my own creative expression. I tried to bring as much ingenuity into my job as possible, but I know it was not enough.
There are people who have made their art their professions and have always walked that truth. It seems while I am an “idea person”, I tend to be a catalyst for others and not very much for myself. The imagination runs wild but the action is static.
There are some of us that have gone down different paths and yearn to return to those roots, that center. I have wandered off that path, but lately, somehow, I feel I might be heading home.