Teaching people how to paint in bars has been calling me. There’s a new crop of companies that offer this. I kept meeting people affiliated with these companies- the opportunity serendipitously showing up over and over again. It felt as if the universe was calling me to do this. I have the personality for it. It’s extra cash. I had no good reason not to.
Yet I resisted.
What was holding me back? Fear– again. That was obvious but didn’t make logical sense.
I was born for this. I taught painting to kids a few years back and loved it. I am a natural teacher- I love painting. Queens is a commute though I thought. Weak excuse– I’m not afraid of trains . . . . or commutes or the outer boroughs.
So, what was I afraid of? I contemplated. I came to a disturbing conclusion. I didn’t want to teach the class because of the actual “art”.
I realized that I was my own pet peeve. Was I an ART snob?!? Gasp. This is huge. I always see joy in people creating things and I believe the more people do this the better off we all are as a community and society. I’ve done enough volunteering to know the joy of giving to others. This is a paying gig.. I should do this.
I surround myself with art- I live in an art mecca- I absorb the masters and work of contemporary greats often. I am inspired by fine art- I studied painting in Florence and at Art Students League. Even though my background is in illustration, I am consistently exposed to the art world through friends and acquaintances. I am drawn to this world.
Yet, I internally criticize the “art world” for seeming self important– an elitist and exclusive society.
In a perfect world, Making and observing art is for everyone. It’s creation in pure form- it’s no surprise that most children naturally want to color and draw. Why is there such lack of encouragement for making stuff and observing art in the general public?
How dare I think I am too good to teach the masses how to do it in an informal setting? How dare I use my exposure to art, education and encouragement as a means to separate myself from others?!? How dare I consider the paintings I would teach less than real paintings?!
I looked at my hypocrisy directly in the face- It made me wince. . . . and shutter. Ick.
Don’t misunderstand me about the art taught in these classes. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. The paintings are pretty. They are mainstream– simple renderings of simple subjects—flowers, landscapes, animals. Think: Bob Ross- nothing deep or thought provoking. Just lovely painted imagery meant for everyone. There’s no social commentary, conceptual rule bending or challenges to the notion of “art”. It’s more like motel art, greeting card art, or art on puzzles.
It’s like the work I create as an illustrator.
WOW. It’s official. I am definitely a hypocrite. Textbook definition. EEEEW. Sigh. . . . .
Then I remembered something I have always known: CREATING IS ABOUT PROCESS AND DISCOVERY.
Who cares what the paintings look like? And who’s to say that my taste is better than anyone else’s? People are getting their brushes wet for the first time.
I decided to do it!!
I began to prepare for my first class. My tasks involved breaking down a painting (assigned by the company) into easy to follow steps. Then I needed to make a painting to stand next to my tip jar to encourage tipping—we could make an original or copy one that we had seen on the company’s website. Nice– I thought- an opportunity to make something original. As I began making the “tips painting” under extreme time constraint- I made my own personal discovery.
Making cartoons brings me immense joy- it’s my natural “go to” when under stress. I made a cartoon out of my tip jar painting.
As much as I am inspired and moved by “high brow” art in museums and galleries- I naturally love cartoons. I do it on my own without incentive– constantly. I still read comics. They make me supremely happy—and there is nothing wrong with that– ever.
Conclusion: Do what makes you happy! Period. All judgments- yours or others do not matter.
I taught the class. Guiding regular people- not just art students or kids- through a simplified visual creative process was even more fulfilling than I thought. Some of them hadn’t held a paintbrush since elementary school- some of them never had. Watching people enjoy the process was the best part. This was making them happy!! And infectiously making me happy!! Period. This is all that matters.
***I encourage you to make something and see how you feel about it. Observe the process and see what you discover. And if it’s not pretty (your creation or what you discover) — that’s ok. We all have icky parts- sometimes they are hard to see.
So stand up to fear and judgment and MAKE SOMETHING!!! And take comfort in knowing that we ALL have it.