Sunday, September 21, 2008

From Bob Ross to Edward Kienholz: My Artistic Evolution

My artistic evolution was a very slow one, truly an evolution. I don't think my parents recognized my inclinations as something that could be encouraged with classes or field trips. They weren't unsupportive, quite the opposite, I was always the one they came to for creative advice of every kind, they were very proud of my fledgling art projects and I knew it. They didn't have that "we just thought you'd do something with your life, we thought you'd be a doctor" mentality, they just never said "hey, lets get this kid to an art museum!"

The first time I did go to an art museum was in Buffalo NY, I was 18 years old and had been taken there by an ex-boyfriend who, I didn't realize at the time, was trying to win me back through my growing love of art. In my ignorance I wasn't distracted by the motives of my company but I was so distracted by my disbelief that these major, historical masterpieces would just be left within the reach of grubby art loving hands, sneezes and general air gunk that I spent the whole time thinking that these must instead be reproductions and that the real deal must be locked safely away in some super secret, waterproof, air proof, sneeze proof, grubby hand proof bunker in the desert. I realized later that I had indeed been in the presence of the real deal and had unfortunately missed out on the experience because of my disbelief.

When I try to think back to when the whole art thing started for me, I guess it was always there. My dad always drew these funny cartoon faces that I often requested. My mom's artistry was expressed in beautifully decorating her home and crafting, sewing in particular. That crazy lady could whip things up out of mid air. I once saw her get ready for a 4th of July party and decide 15 minutes before departure time that she wasn't festive enough, pull out the sewing machine and fabric and (without a pattern) create a stars and stripes vest and don it in time to walk out the door without being late! When I was a kid I could sit forever perfecting my coloring skills. I looked at fellow colorers and tried to imitate what I liked and avoid what I didn't and, like a true budding art nerd, I grew annoyed at the limitations of the crayon. In grade school I got a book on how to draw teddy bears wearing different outfits. My personalized teddy bears were the amazement of my peers and started to be heavily requested. Had I the entrepreneurial sense of Diana I could've been in business for myself, but I didn't so I took special orders on my classmates' teddies, what kind of clothes they wanted on their bears, did they want a hat etc. etc. and then gifted my early works.

I continued to teach myself to draw through books, but they got a little more sophisticated than teddies, thank goodness. I took my first art class as a high school Jr. and was sorely disappointed. Draw a picture of your summer vacation was not the kind of artistic stimulation I was craving. Art club was no better. The only thing I remember doing with them is painting silly Halloween backdrops for the school's Halloween dance. I left high school in possession of fantastic self-taught drawing skills but artistically illiterate.

College was artistic heaven for me ("You mean I can get credit towards an actual degree for taking a film history class?!"). My world went from my self-learn books in my room to an entire history of art from the first cave scribble to the present. I was overwhelmed in the most wonderful way. Then I got to take my History of Modern Art class and I was hopelessly head over heals in love. Roy Lichtenstein, Joseph Cornell, Frida Kalo, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Anselm Kiefer, Egon Schiele, Edward Kienholz, Cindy Sherman heart beats faster even as I type their names! I happily lugged my 50lbs of art history books around campus just for the joy of discovering more of this world in the dark of a lecture room lit only by beautiful art slides by the hundreds. As I unearthed and studied my heroes my art finally started becoming what I had envisioned since the beginning, something expressive, something me, something full of emotion; sadness and joy all rolled up in a mess of beautiful paint, mixed media pieces and finally an installation. My artistic evolution felt complete.

I've hardly picked up a paintbrush since graduating college and moving out of my campus studio. After graduation I actually used my degree as a graphic designer and worked for a card company. I guess that filled my creative needs and then, well, life just takes over. Marriage, kids, moves, new jobs...I started to really scrapbook after my first boy was born. I started out saying to myself, "There's no way I'm getting addicted to this corny craft, I'm an artist just making a baby book" but I was gone before I knew what had happened. But that is a completely different revolution! I debate painting again but don't know if I ever will, I don't know that I really need that any more. Time will tell. Right now I'm pretty content playing around with paper!


stephanie said...

Hey Sunny! I love this post! remember those days when you, Jamie and I went out to paint together. I loved that! I miss you....

I also have fond memories of being an art major in college. It was fun to be around everyone. One day we should move away and live in an art colony together:) Steph

Sunny of The Beehive said...

It is awesome to be in the constant company of other artists, it's hard to beat spending all that time around people who share the same passion for art.

I miss you too, and our painting expeditions! I'm afraid I wouldn't even know how to hold a brush anymore!