“Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.”
~ e.e. cummings
When school came to an end a boy in my class gave me a beautiful framed message that
he had written himself, each word in a different colour. It read, “Thank you for inspiring me every day.” When I first met this boy, he would do impulsive things like cut the front of his t-shirt in half with scissors because he desperately needed to make a super hero cape that instant. Sometimes I would give just about anything to be four years old again – to give in to wild creative impulses, to just make things and have a devil-may-care attitude about it. If anything, I should thank him for inspiring me, especially during those times when I am hardly an inspiration to myself. I write a lot about creativity but don’t always practise what I preach, and recently my creative energy level has been at an all time low. And so I decided it was time to do something about this situation – to run into the nearest phone booth, and emerge, revealing to the world my secret identity – Artist Girl!
Earlier in July I took a short course in printmaking, something far removed from my usual interests of music, writing and knitting. I felt it was important to step out of my comfort zone if I truly was going to flex my creative muscles. Although I was a little nervous at first, I soon discovered that I was in the midst of supportive people who explained and demonstrated techniques, and who allowed me to observe them in full flow as they explored making linocuts, etchings on zinc plates and silk screened images. It was very exciting to see so many projects developing at the same time, to feel a renewed sense of creative energy, to tap into my own imagination (or other resources such as photos I had taken) in order to launch my own projects. At the end of thirty hours I had made two linocuts, tried a few things with my etching, and created a t-shirt with some “knitting humour”. I also discovered that printmaking was more demanding than I had realized. I honestly felt the effects of my creative efforts in my joints, my tendons and muscles, but it was the kind of discomfort that reminded me that something vital was still alive inside of me. If this is what it feels like to be an artist, then I have a new and deepened respect for artists and for their work.
Taking the printmaking course made me think that perhaps there is a real artist within me, living a quiet, secret other life, waiting for “actual me” to send out the Artist Girl distress signal – a call for help and inspiration, an invitation for the artist to emerge. I don’t always have the strength or courage to conjure her myself. And I know that I just don’t do it often enough. Maybe what I needed was a safe and accepting space, and the presence of people with a positive and creative spirit. It was nice to feel permitted to explore, ask questions and even to take pride in what I had produced and to say, “Look what I made!” It was nice to feel four years old again. I discovered that while creating art has a solitary aspect, sharing art has a way of allowing a person to bloom, and to form connections with others and to actually be their inner Artist Girl.
This blog post is dedicated to Diego Fernandez, who will forever be a superhero in my heart.