An artist? To be or not to be…

A memory from my childhood came to me the other day, and it helped me understand my current thinking patterns and why I am the way I am. 

Drifting back in time ….

I was about six years old, and in the first grade. It was in the mid-50′s and our teacher was a kind and good spirited woman. Her name was Miss “Chersum” (at least that’s how the name is pronounced, but I believe it was spelled much differently ~ Kjiersm ~ maybe Norweigen?). She was tall and thin and I remember her always wearing an ankle-length full skirt with a wide belt (very stylish in those days) and high heels. She seemed old to me, but she was probably only in her late-30s to mid-40′s, with a tinge of grey showing. She had wonderful control of her classroom and we all loved her,  even when she pushed us on to study and learn.  It was story time, so she asked all the kids to come sit on the floor while she read from a book with heartfelt enthusiasm.

I had another personal agenda that day. My aunt Gloria had asked me to “paint a nice picture of a ballerina today while you are in school,” so she could frame it and we could give it to my mom as a Mother’s Day gift. So, when Miss Chersum began to read the story, my mind wandered and I slipped quietly over to the sink and easel area, put a piece of paper on the easel and started to paint. All the kids became restless watching me do this, and Miss Chersum looked up from the book and asked “Trishy, what are you doing?”
I simply told her I had to paint a picture to give to my mom for Mother’s Day, and that she needn’t worry because I was also still listening to the story. I think, because I was so straight foreword about it, she was a bit floored. But, I think she liked me since she instructed the rest of the class to just sit still and listen to the story and not to pay attention to me. And she allowed me to carry on quietly.  So I painted the picture while the story was read, and afterward all the students came over to see what I’d done. I took the picture to my aunt’s house after school. Auntie Gloria was my biggest fan and a great supporter of my artistic bent. She had the picture framed and we gave it to my mom on her special day.

In retrospect …

Looking back on the situation, I just have to laugh — at myself and Miss Chersum and the whole situation. I’m so thankful that this teacher allowed me to “do my thing” that day. It was a gesture that meant a great deal to me throughout my life and it spurred me on to believe in the integrity of expressing myself as an artist.

 In our world today ….

Society has a tendency to give mixed messages to artists. On one hand the “Artist”  is viewed with renowned importance to culture, and on the other hand an artist is viewed as a flake — a kooky or eccentric person. Perhaps there is a little of both in each artist or in the art world as a whole. But without artists, our society would not be human, or humane. We would be like robots. Art is a form of appreciation of the natural world, of life and living. Visual artists capture what they see, dream, feel, and experience, and they share it in a way that others can hopefully relate to and appreciate. Artists add meaning and a touch of beauty to our lives.

Therefore, be what you will, and make no excuses!