Growing up in a crafty household made it hard not to adopt a project mentality myself. My mother always had a project — cooking, flower arranging, gardening, sewing, and later embroidery. She thought it was important I pick up some skills, too. Cooking (liked it), sewing (hated it), art (terrible at it), dance (pretty good at tap) and music (liked and was good at it) made their way through our household. I never drew or painted because no one in my family really had much experience with it and I certainly had no aptitude for it, so needlework it was. Somewhere along the line, I discovered I loved needlepoint. (My mother hated it, but I hated embroidery, so she recognized that her thing might not be my thing. At least I was doing a thing, she figured.)
Whenever I’d finish a needlepoint piece, no matter how small or amateurish, my mother celebrated the finish. “It’s beautiful!” she’d exclaim. Then she made a point of us both going to local frame shop where we’d look at colors and options. She’d offer suggestions and let me go my way if I had a particular vision in my head. Sometimes, I might not feel as excited about a piece as she did, but she made me understand that it’s important to celebrate success. I now have some wonderful pieces that I’m happy she preserved and cherished. I do, too, now.
Fast forward to a few years ago when I started thinking about learning to draw. As I traveler, I had long wished I knew how to sketch. Knowing a fair amount about viewing art, but nothing — and I mean nothing — about actually creating art, I looked for a class.
Here’s where I can tout what a tremendous program we have here with the Indianapolis Art Center. IAC is a university-level art program with classes open to everyone from beginners to professionals. You can learn glass blowing, metal sculpting, print making, wood working, oil painting, and yes, basic drawing. At some point, my lovely friend Meganne Townsend invited me to a pastel painting workshop put on by the Mountain View Art Guild at her home Mountain View, Arkansas taught by nationally-recognized pastel artist and university professor Yvonne Sangster. I try to go every year and this year was profound. Call it a breakthrough or just having a clear mind, but I painted the best I’ve ever painted in my life. Three paintings in three days! And my critical artist self happy with them. I was even more amazed that they’d come from the ends of my pastel stained fingers.
When I got home, I took them for framing, spending what felt like hours with the shop picking out the optimum frames, mats and glass, sizing and spacing, and edging. And lordy, the cost! Expensive, yes, but my mother never once complained about the cost of having a half-crooked, mistake-laden art piece of mine frame. Not once. Not ever.
When I picked them up this week my heart almost stopped. Then I almost cried because they are so beautiful. And it’s not because I have an ego about my art or that I feel they are particularly well-rendered, but that they are something that I created with my heart, and soul. They are something I created from passion and love of the art. I nearly cried because I knew how proud my mother would have been and I know she’d appreciate I learned the lesson of celebrating the finish. Finishing a project is easy enough, but to make the art into a finished piece — a pillow, a carpet, a framed picture, that’s the celebration of art and love, passion and heart. So, mom, thank you for teaching me to celebrate.