Wednesday, February 15, 2006

another dragon!?!

"...remember: we're always just a breath away from something brand-new." - SARK

I seem to have a bit of a dragon theme going in the last week! This is not intentional, I assure you! But yesterday I read Jamie's post and began really thinking about creativity and about having all of the supplies to try out all of the things I would secretly like to do! The more I read people's blogs and think about creativity, the more I have been inspired to do more, write more, draw more. It's such an exciting place to be!

When I was little I was pretty good at writing but never as good at drawing as other people. It's really too bad that kids get pigeon-holed in this way. When you show a talent for something, your work gets put up on the blackboard for all to see. That is great for the kid whose work it is but it is not so great for the other kids. The ones who did something slightly different than what was expected, or who weren't able to make it LOOK like what it was supposed to look like don't usually get up on the board. So I didn't really think I COULD draw or make art. So I didn't. Well, I thought I didn't. For years I sent colourful letters to people, doodled, and made jewellery - but I didn't ever draw or paint so I never thought about it as 'art.'

A couple of years ago my friend Cindy gave me the greatest job in the world. She hired me to be in charge of the arts program at a summer camp and outdoor education centre. The very VERY best part about that summer was that a brand new building had just been built to house Arts and Crafts. It was a lovely building with lots of windows and cupboards and shelves and as long as I didn't do anything permanent to the walls I could decorate it however I wanted. The campers and staff were used to the old building which was covered in paint where people had written their names all over the walls. We weren't allowed to do that in the new building.

So I had a blank canvas, and I had to show the people who loved the old building that the new building could be as inspiring and creative as the old one. It was so liberating for me! I wrote and decorated quotes to put on the walls, I painted a massive sun to go on the ceiling, and children's art went up everywhere. I made a spiderweb out of yarn in one corner. Thinking it was getting a bit girlie I painted the dragon in the picture above. He took up one whole side of the ceiling, his tail wrapping around one of the lights.

That whole summer (and the next!) became a liberation for me. Because I was the person in charge, people just expected that I knew what I was doing. I became the go-to girl for anything that needed artwork or colour or decoration of any kind. Like a queen in her castle I was in charge of a building FULL of craft supplies. I had paint and glitter and clay and glue and paper and all kinds of crazy things that had been collected over the years. (I have to admit I was a bit controlling about it all too - I mean, would YOU give that stuff away easily?!) It was absolutely amazing.

The other day when I was feeling especially stuck I found this picture of the dragon and I added him to the bulletin board in front of my desk. Now, whenever I look at someone's blog or someone's art and feel like I can't possibly be as creative as they are, I look at him and I think about that summer and I smile. I can do it. Creativity isn't something that only the people who are "good" should be embracing. I know that sometimes in art AND in writing if you just pretend you know what you're doing, you can end up with magic.


Connie and Rob said...

Wish I could have been in your summer class. Bet you were a lot of fun.

You definitely have talent. Love your dragon! Very striking.


andrea said...

Isn't it amazing how much we let the powers-that-be guide how we think about ourselves? Good observations, Megg, and borrow some of your guy's art supplies...

Laini Taylor said...

Hi Meg - great thoughts! When I was selling my paintings at an outdoor craft fair (how I made my living until very recently) I had people tell me ALL THE TIME that they "couldn't draw a straight line" and I always asked them how much they tried, and whether they really wanted to. (not the straight line part, who cares about a straight line? Death to straight lines!) Because I absolutely believe - as it says on my website - that everyone can learn to draw beyond their wildest dreams. It takes a lot of practice so it has to be something you want to do really badly. If it's part of a wishful list like, I wish I could play the cello, draw, fly, win the lottery, and tapdance like Fred Astaire, then, well, it'll probably always stay on that list and never move into reality. But if someone really wants to learn to draw: they can. It's a mechanical skill! And I completely agree with you about kids getting the message that they are or aren't good at things at an early age. Terrible! A friend of mine has a fairly tragic story of being told by the music teacher in 2nd grade that she couldn't sing, and not getting to be part of the music number in her class performance! It's a very vivid memory of hers. I bet you were a great craft teacher, and the arts cabin sounds magical. Thanks for a fun blog - when I don't know what to write on my own I can always count on finding inspiration here! I might even continue these thoughts on my own blog later. Cheers!

Frankie said...

Oh Meg, I LOVE this! I'm imagining being in that room you created, all of the colorful artwork surrounding's the dream room that I'd like to live in. It's wonderful, and your dragon is wonderful. I know just what you mean about labeling ourselves as being good or not good at something. It seems we learn at a very young age what our talents are and that they are set that way, when in fact, it's completely untrue. I never thought of myself as being good at visual art because I couldn't make things look the way that they did in my head, but I've learned since then that sometimes what is produced is more beautiful and magical because it looks nothing like what I envisioned, because it's original and real and a reflection of me. I love your artistic soul and the way that it's so poignantly expressed here in your blog. Thank you for it.

PS. I got your FANTASTIC email and I promise to write you back before the day is through. Thank you so much!

chest of drawers said...

I think you are incredibly creative!

la vie en rose said...

it has always been so hard for me to claim the title of artist for myself. i think its because we can be raised to see that word in such a small, limited deffinition. and those who are and aren't "artists" are labled very early in life. thank god for people like sark and julia cameron who are willing to blow those narrow deffinitions right open.

Jamie said...

Beautiful and inspiring post, Meg! I love how when you say something outloud suddenly you find out you have lots of sisters out there sharing the experience!

I love the whole mythic element of your creative self. The gorgeous dragon hovering above like a protector while inside Queen Meg of the Craft Room reigns, sharing supplies and making a safe space for creativity to happen!

I deeply believe the joy and experience of creating art belongs to everyone. As the old saying goes - If only the birds with the best voices sang, the forest would be a very quiet place.

e! said...

Couldn't agree with you more, Megg. Good for you!

I love your dragon, by the way. He's adorable.

Cate said...

Thank you for sharing your lovely, inspirational words. I adore your dragon--he (she?) is gorgeous, glistening, and voluptuous!

Your story is very motivational--we can all "take a bite from your cookie" when we feel a love for something that doesn't necessarily love us back (though I can't imagine people not encouraging your drawing--in the same situation, I would've made a stick dragon--that's bad!).

I think often about the way we encourage children--how, if they are good at something, it becomes "their thing," while the stuff that they don't shine at just falls to the wayside. It begins so early in schools, too (i.e. kids can tell you who is a good artist, who is the smartest, who is the best runner, who can write funny stories).

With posts like these, Megg, you're helping to create a more art-filled worldl, where we can dabble across disciplines with confidence! THANK YOU!

Willena said...

I helped out at an arts day at my church one time--the kids were making Christmas decorations and presents for their parents. I wasn't asked to do so more than once, because I told the kids "of course you can do that" and "no you don't have a pattern to follow." This might have been fine if mine was the workshop with paper and scissors and neat little glue sticks. Oh, no. My workshop involved painting flowerpots. Why the heck did those idiot parents put their little darlings in their best clothes for a Saturday arts and crafts workshop? I heard major grumbling that not only were the pots not displayable, but the kids got paint on their clothes. Those pots were beautiful, first expressions of creativity--and creativity is a messy business. Phooey on those parents sticking their children in little boxes.

The Silent K said...

I think that philosophy probably applies to almost everything in life.

I have noticed that in my job as well, that it is the people who can fly eloquently and confidently by the seat of their pants that get the recognition, even if they aren't necessarily the most remarkable. Sometimes courage, nerve and just having the will to DO IT are even more valuable than inherent ability or talent as perceived by the outside world. (If that made any sense...)