“…usually – but not always — the piece you produce tomorrow will be shaped, purely and simply,
by the tools you hold in your hand today.” — Bayles & Orland
It’s still another month before I’ll see my paints and painting tools again, so I’ve been spending my “dedicated” painting time reading about the creative paths of other artists instead and taking a look at some of my earliest work to understand my own creative path.
Like many artists, I studied art history so I had a foundation in what had survived the tests of time, and I began my own art studies with a pencil or stick of charcoal and a pad of newsprint. Full disclosure: I began my own work as a would-be artist in a pastel class because it was the only one that fit my schedule. After the pastel class, I continued with the instructor in a more traditional drawing class (charcoal/newsprint pad). I attended several of them with her and other instructors years before I considered painting with any medium at all.
But she was the one who encouraged me to head to art school in my early 40s.
In old movies, there’s sometimes a moment when the plain secretary lets her hair down, takes off her glasses and the man she adores is stunned and says, “Why, Miss Havesham, you’re beautiful!” She, of course, glows.
I felt a similar glow when the instructor said to me one evening all those years ago, “You really should consider art school,” words I’d wanted to hear all my life as I messed around with pens and pencils and inexpensive paints doing sketches and little paintings I kept entirely to myself. And a few years later, I went.
Through all that I, who could not “draw a straight line with a ruler,” learned that art is not about rulers or straight lines so much as about seeing. Seeing and capturing what you see, not what you expect to see or think you see, but what you really see. Frederick Franck’s “The Zen of Seeing” is an excellent guide for any artist (or any human who wants to know more about the world around him or her).
Now that I’m a painter and love the color, I apply those old lessons without really thinking about them. When I looked through some of my early work, I could see the connections. They may not be so obvious to another viewer, but I see them just as I can look at old photos of myself at five or six or eight and recognize the cocky look, the scraped knee (roller skating), the bit of anxiety at having my picture taken.
Here are a few pix of my early efforts.
Watercolor sea shell
(Iris and Hollyhocks, colored pencil)
Every artist draws her hand
Paper and pencil
So much for a run through the past. The present is here and the future awaits. Mine will be one of abstract color as I return to my paints and canvases next month. Color will always be the animal that wags its own tail, but any work that went before counts, too.
How about your own work? Whatever you did yesterday will inform what you do today whether you’re learning to be a better artist, a better parent, a better friend. It matters. You and your work matter. All of it.
In the musical Mame, Mame’s actress friend, Vera, talks her into playing a small role in Vera’s musical, a role that simply involves sitting on a stage moon while Vera sings a song. Mame gets cold feet at the last moment and there’s a verbal battle back stage until Vera finally says impatiently, “Tell her to get her ass on that moon!”
I’m saying to every wannabe artist or any other thing, stop putting it off. Take what you’ve learned so far and get your ass on that moon.
Years from now you can look back and be glad you did.
All work is © 2019, Molly Larson Cook
2 thoughts on “Art and the Moon”
How great is this?! Thank you. I’m sure that G O’K show was terrific. I saw one once at the Boston Museum and cried. Loved her for a long time.
I like the timing of your post because Janet and I spent several hours this morning spent touring the Georgia O’Keefe museum in Santa Fe.
Both of you artists have been “creative rebels” whose artistic eye make it a better world.