Saturday, November 20, 2010

That Could Be a Stretch

It certainly would be a stretch for me to try to pass myself off as an artist. I did once have my work on display, but most of my pieces came down from the bedroom door by the time I was in third grade. On a serious note, I have always been impressed with people who could take a pencil or a paint brush and put recognizable images on paper. I tried my hand at it from time to time in school, but never had the knack for it. My daughter is one of those true artists who can represent things on paper using all kinds of medium. She is, in fact, studying art in college. Now she is into abstract art and sculpture. Like I said, I have always been impressed with people who can draw and paint, and I've been particularly proud of my daughter for some years now.
It was a few years ago that one Christmas my daughter gave me a set of pastels and a small sketch book. I enjoy playing around with words and dabbling in music, but I had long ago given up any attempt at the visual arts. My daughter apparently wanted me to expand my artistic interests. Or perhaps she wanted to share some of her world with me. I decided it would be fun to give it another try. I scribbled out a few images that winter, then put the pastels aside. I came across that sketchbook this week. The first two pictures I attempted were things I was looking at in the back room where I take my morning coffee and do a little reading and meditation. The picture you see at the top of this entry is the chair by the window where I usually sit in the morning.

Here you see what I see when I look out that window. There is the lattice fence that I built 20 years ago (which I replaced with more lattice this past summer - you may remember seeing the cypress vine and moonflower growing on it in an earlier post). Then there are the bird feeders that attract finches, titmice, chickadees, cardinals, doves, the occasional grosbeak, and from time to time a marauding band of grackles who come through like Hell's Angels in their black jackets, all others fleeing until the wide-eyed black birds move on. Beyond that it the tree in our neighbor's yard across the street.

After I did those first two sketches, I decided to try drawing something from my head instead of an actual image I was looking at. I came up with a pond, much like the ones you might find in the country out in a pasture in rural Alabama where a farmer has dammed up a creek to create a pond for watering the cows. I didn't see any cows in my head - only trees, grass, a cardinal on the ground and some birds flying in the distance.

Then there is this scene, perhaps somewhere out west, with mountains in the distance and sparse vegetation except near the spring and oasis that rise up in the midst of a barren landscape.
The point of all of this is really that I am out of my comfort zone. I am not doing art that would be seriously presented in public, but by moving out of my comfort zone, perhaps I am allowing myself to see things a little differently. Perhaps I can gain a new perspective. What do my images tell me about what is going on inside? Do they reveal anything of my nature or interests that I might not otherwise see? What about the physical act of drawing, which is not natural to me - could that stretch my capacity or my awareness? Could I develop some new creative muscle?

The further point to this examination is that perhaps everyone should step out of their comfort zone from time to time. Those who know little about music might attend a concert by the local symphony. If you are into pop or rock music, maybe you could force yourself to go to the opera. City dwellers might go for a hike in a wilderness area. Hikers might consider a change and come into town for a latte and a tour of the museum of art. People who have never been comfortable with animals could spend some time at a petting farm or a children's zoo. There are any number of avenues available to expand our horizons if we just look around. Most communities have classes available for things like art or photography. Our local community school sometimes offers lessons in home repair, knitting, yoga, or tai chi.

I'm not knocking comfort. Comfort is good - do not forsake it. However, we can stretch ourselves from time to time and make new discoveries. What are your comfort zones? What activities might you consider to be a stretch, given your skills level? Are there things you've had in the back of your mind? Things you've thought you might like to try, but just haven't gotten around to it? Maybe it is time to give some new things a try.

Now that I've got these pastels and sketch book out again, maybe I'll do some more work with them. No matter how badly I do it, at least it will be a different perspective. Furthermore, it will always bring my daughter to mind as I think of her talents and admire the ease with which she practices her art - and that is probably the greatest and best result of any of my meager attempts at drawing.

And the road goes ever on... 

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