The Agile Open Northwest 2013 conference was a re-awakening for my artistic talents. I’ve pursued borosilicate glass through both fusing and beading for a few years, and have recently accepted myself as a Glass Artist, but still had a mental block about thinking of myself as artistically skilled. Then AONW cracked the code.
Grade 4, I got a C in art class. The only non-A I got on a grade-school report card (OK, there were also gym class and handwriting – traumatic but formative), and it had a very strong effect on me. I remember looking back on that collage project as my departure from all right-brain pursuits – I would further myself through those subjects at which I excelled, science and math. I dreamed from then on to be a scientist when I grew up, and only learned the error of my dreams when I reached fourth year of my Chemistry degree and realized just how tedious and repetitive the whole pursuit of scientific knowledge really was.
I’ve done a lot of left-brain work since, but continued to harbour an appreciation for colour, abstract organic designs, and general artistic creativity. I gravitated to hand-painted clothing , I sought out art museums wherever I went, found myself fascinated by fine artists who applied their talent to the human canvas, and intensely studied the craft of artistic pursuits. My favourite artist is Vincent Van Gogh, precisely because he spent so much of his artistic career so desperately studying technique and attempting to prove his talent to himself.
Three years ago I decided to put my hand to glass craft – fused glass plates and wearables, and hotwork on the torch. A couple of years into it I finally accepted that I am a glass artist, yet still I never picked up a pencil. Maybe it’s been my comics reading – the more I study the visual and written sides of the craft, the harder it is to get it ‘right’.
Despite all this, I’m a furious whiteboard abuser – at work, I clock on average ten minutes in meetings before I am compelled to grab a marker and scribble on the walls. I’ve taken a college course on how to use Adobe Illustrator, and now I create graphics elements for our team’s web site. Even more telling, I purchased an iPad two years ago, and immediately loaded up on all the drawing apps and have bought four different styluses. Some itch just wouldn’t go away.
So what was the secret formula at AONW, that caused me to pick up a pen and draw in public? The facilitator gave us all permission to copy. That’s it, that’s the terrible insight – the thing that nearly every artist learns/is forced to try early in their instruction, is the very thing I didn’t allow myself to do. Felt I should (like most of my intellectual and work pursuits) be absolutely natural and naturally talented at it, or I wasn’t allowed to draw. It’s embarrassing, and I surely haven’t overcome decades of self-imposed conditioning, but it *has* enabled me to allow myself to goof around with a digital pen [even badly] every week since.