Wish You Were Here


I wish all of you could see this happening – young artists at work. Creative liberty is the intuitive goal driving the production of art here. And, of course, not one kid in our after school studio would describe it this way. But our job isn’t to wait until they can wrap language around their encounters with the creative process. Our job is to make materials, methods, and inspiration self-perpetuating.

Another way of stating this? Our job is to cultivate a longing for reds, blues, and greens. Our job is to connect making and seeing. Visual thinking is the experience of finding connections here, there and everywhere. Awareness of beauty informs these connections. Look, this hasn’t been an easy journey for me. By the time I was six years old the pronouncement that painting is dead was being thrown about by artists, critics, and curators. By the time I finished my undergraduate studies there was a real need for artists to go out of their way to justify drawing a graphite line or linking paint to a concept. The idea that artistically made things are quaint throwbacks to another time is really just low lying conceptual fruit.

And, yet, through all my own little doubts about all this art-world stuff what I’ve found is one person after another finding their footing in their own authentic creative process. Young people are busy naming and ordering their worlds. Art making facilitates this process. Don’t have the word for it? Here is orange and pink. Overwhelmed by emotion? Take this paint-laden brush and push it along this canvas. Learning to live in the face of wonder and discovery is what we are about. At this point I’m pretty sure this is timeless thinking.

I just wish I could get everybody in the world to grab a pen and scrap of paper and make a little doodle. That’s where the magic is. And if you don’t feel the implied grandeur in your little hastily-made image then consider it is but a drop in the sea of your creativity. It’s easy to judge. It’s easy to find fault and imperfection in what we do and make. The truth is the creative process requires a willingness to make imperfect things. Despite all the culturally-reinforced hoopla we are not after perfection. We’re after the little promises we want to make to ourselves. We all have these little, barely audible, whispers coming up from our core. Following such wispy things is tough though. Art making helps with this. Worrying about a test grade or a co-worker? Get your hands on some green or orange pigment in any form: crayon, pencil, paint, oil stick. Live with the process. The answers will come.