Sunday, May 11, 2014

Life Lessons Learned Through Art; The perks of being raised by an artist.

My mother loves to tell the story about the time she discovered me painting.  I was two years old and found my way to a canvas she had been working on.  I grabbed the red paint and added a few special touches.  When she discovered what I had done to her artwork, I looked at her proudly and said, "I PAINTED!"  
She responded with a smile, "Yes you did."

When my sister and I were older, she began to teach art classes in the basement of our house.  It was during these basement art classes (whether she was aware of it or not), that she taught me three invaluable life lessons that have shaped and enhanced my life. 

1.  Make your mistakes work for you. 

I remember the day she handed all of her students sharpie markers.  She instructed, "We are using sharpies today because you cannot erase.  If you make a mistake, you'll need to figure out how to make it work." I realize now, this was an exercise in perseverance.  The marks made in the past are permanent, so make new marks, change paths and turn mistakes into something meaningful and useful in the best way possible. 

2.  See below the surface.

My mother set up a still-life that included a candle with a lit flame. She told us, "Do not look at the candle and see a candle. Do not draw a candle.  Instead, look at the lines and shapes that create the candle.  Notice the circle of light that the candle is casting, and the triangular shape of the negative space?"  This lesson taught me to see through the eyes of curiosity.  To take note of the dramatic swoop of a tree trunk, the way the sun gives everything a golden glow at dusk, and the perfect curl of my daughter's eyelashes.  Because of her, I don't miss out on the beauty, quirk, and uniqueness of the lines, shapes and shadows that make up our world. 

3.   Do it for the joy that it brings.

I entered a scarecrow making contest for a 4-H fair.  My mother helped me create a lopsided, wild eyed scarecrow in roller skates and a hot pink boa.  Every time we looked at our scarecrow, we began to laugh.  This scarecrow was sure to win first place!  I received a red ribbon (not blue) due to it not meeting the quality scarecrow-making criteria.  But it didn't phase us a bit.  We loved standing back and observing county fair visitors as they pointed and chuckled at our creation. Next year, I entered the contest again, and like last year our weird imperfect scarecrow brought us joy and delight, and like last year, I did not receive a best-in-show.

Because my mother nurtured the artist in me, her art classes in the basement taught me to persevere,  wonder in the ordinary, and make joy a priority.  

And for that, I am forever grateful.  

To the most whimsical, kind and generous artist I know...

Happy Mother's Day. 

You can find my mother's artwork at Susan Miller Art

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