Knowing It

In the past, I’ve written about art shows and galleries and the trials and tribulations of working in the studio, but this time, I’d like to focus on artistic ability that resides closer to home. Really close. Sitting with you now, as a matter of fact.

 If you are right now inspecting all the unoccupied-by-you space of your chair with a “what is she talking about now” expression on your face, let me explain.

In downtown Orlando, Florida, there is an art gallery in the luxurious Bohemian Hotel. A while back, I had the very good fortune to meet the Lovely Woman who runs the gallery. For the Lovely Woman, art is a passion that pours from her. I learned much about the work the gallery displays and the local artists creating these pieces during our chat.

“Do you see this piece?” she questions me, directing my attention to a misty watercolour landscape just signed “Jack R”. “Jack is 91 years old. He worked in a warehouse all his life and never imagined himself as a painter. He didn’t realize he was an artist till he was in his eighties. “The Lovely Woman spoke to me about who we can call Artist. “Everyone is an artist,” she concluded. “Some people just don’t know it yet.”

Now, for many of you, the jury might be out on whether or not this statement is 100% true, but allow me to present another story to you that might illustrate further the Lovely Woman’s point:

When celebrating a milestone, the tendency is to reflect on the past. Weddings, special birthdays, anniversaries, graduations – they are occasions that prod us to glance behind, to notice, to pull stories and images from our memories and enjoy them again.

Maria is someone I have known pretty much all of my life and she recently celebrated a milestone – her 60th birthday. If asked to describe some of Maria’s qualities, I would start by saying she is smart, intense, loving, family-oriented and the baker of the world’s best peanut butter cookies. “She’s an artist,” would not have been a statement that would have passed my lips when asked to describe Maria a few years ago. I didn’t “know it” then.

Recently, Maria’s personal and professional life produced some incredibly heavy duty stress. She wanted to – needed to – do something that would point her in a completely un-Maria-like direction. A local community centre was offering an acrylics painting class. Maria, hoping for some three-hours-a-week escape, signed up.

This spring, Maria will be attending her fifth session of painting classes and is painting heartfelt work. The artist in her has stretched and yawned and woken and manages to shove aside the chaos in her life from time to time. Maria’s whole self lifts and brightens when she works with paint or talks about her art. It’s amazing to watch excitement ripple across her. Painting might not have erased the stress in her life, but somehow her relationship with painting has given her some tranquility – an island in the storm that swirls through her days.

“My daughter is an artist,” Maria’s mother revealed to me with awe one afternoon when we were examining Maria’s recent paintings. “She’s my daughter yet I never would have guessed.”

Maria “knows it” now – has become acquainted with that place in her where her artist lives. She found it hiding and introduced it to acrylics.

Picasso is said to have commented that “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up.” This is an interesting spin on the Lovely Woman’s statement, but the basic principle is the same. Just maybe it’s there really close, sitting with you now, as a matter of fact.

Whether it is already awake in you, or whether it needs a nudge, I’m betting the Lovely Woman is right.