Thursday, January 20, 2011

Out of Words

This week's topic has been elusive. Sometimes I think it's a miracle that I have written fifteen blog chapters of some length since October. I am generally not a person who is good with verbal self expression. Most of my life I tended to keep my opinion on "important" matters to myself. When I think of this trait, then and now, I'm not sure if it's the lack of communication skill, or just the disinterest in having to have an opinion. I think I have always had a part of me just content to be one with things. When I do want to share, it is mostly personal rather than political and social. I best express myself in color and form, and mostly through the years, by ornamentation of myself and my surroundings. 

Naturally, this let to the battle for control over my appearance, both as a minor, and beyond into adulthood.  My clothing called "costume" or just inappropriate, my hair too long, the makeup/no makeup battles, glasses vs contacts. Every confrontation just serving to strengthen my position: being different was my mode and my battle cry. You cannot critique and devalue my expression without showing you feel the same about me. 

Starting early in life, I started the habit of making things on a daily basis. I can't recall when I didn't have a project involving needles, yarns and cloth; cardboard, crayons and glue. Drawing and painting, the 2D things of expression, while generally encouraged by my artistic dad, was not as favored an outlet for me, because I realized early that the results generally ended in large piles of paper in the closet, out of sight and eventually to be tossed. Meanwhile, things that were "women's arts" were more likely to be used or displayed.

Kindergarden: The awards started early, but the actual art is long forgotten.
(Note that the day  I was starting this scrapbook was July 20, 1969, "Moon Day")

First grade art: A little too stiff and defined, true? School art in those days was not so much about originality as about following rules.

By 6th grade I was being recruited for schoolwide projects like designing programs for music events, and gifts to school superintendants. This rug eventually returned to my school and hung in the foyer.

Of course, at that time, there was not the popular concept of journaling or saving creativity in book form, except the occasional scrapbook of paper souvenirs. Only a handful of my high school or college art has survived in a portfolio that somehow was not tossed. But memories do remain. Memories of loving visual self expression of any sort. (And also of being discouraged from the desired path to an education and career in fashion design.)

So here I sit, near the close of my sixth decade of living in this complicated state: no longer interested in a career, but with the great luxury of time and support and self-determination to do whatever I choose. The Internet allows me to "self-publish" both my thoughts and my visual arts. I can take classes and partake in the verbal exploration of the arts we are sharing. I am taking time every day to delve into my new pursuits in ways I never knew I could without formal college classes. I sit for hours now, drawn to the page or the cloth to express with color, texture and form. I thrill as these things pour from me. And the wonderful change is this: I no longer care what results, as long as it is freely done and mine. It does not have to be practical, or fit a definition, or please someone else. It is not a kit, a pattern, a hobby. It is just me, doing what I need to do, finding a way around the words.

The latest page in my hippo collection journal

Week 3 of the Strathmore recycled journal pages
 adds background texture and depth

I have purchased some sequin waste
 and I'm having fun with circular texture

No real plan, just lots of play and fun

I will be starting my two new classes today, one in drawing my world, and the other in finding the  personal story as bits of cloth come together. I will share ideas and energy with my fellow classmates. At the same time, I hope to hold onto my new freedom to not care what they think of me, or let others define me or limit my self expression because of expectations. This is not about talking about art. This is finally about living it.


  1. How interesting and fun to see a bit of your evolution as an artist. I love this post, and your hippos are great! nancy

  2. Cheryl, your last 3 sentences say it all!! I'm in so much the same place as you and we're much closer in age than I thought. Finally allowing my free spirit self to tell the voices in my head (and out of it) to shut up and let me do what I want!! Oh, and on your goat question I raised goats for a while and just love their quirky personalities! See you 'round the sketchbook!! I love how bold your work looks, lots of bright colors-I'm getting there, but it's slower.

  3. such a nice post =) I really like the hippos and the cute little goldfish. And the soft toys are cute too

  4. I have had a very interesting time on your blog. I enjoyed your words, insights and artwork too. The internet has really opened up the world for closet-artists like us. Every day I am stunned by what I can learn, do and create. I am grateful to be in this stage of my life, and blossoming. Elza

  5. Wonderful post; wonderful art!

  6. I really enjoyed what you've written about your personal journey. Obviously it's something you've thought about for a long time.
    Your grade school art is charming and your hippo's are stellar!
    I'm following and look forward to reading more.

  7. A wonderful and insightful post! Thank you for sharing your journey and your feelings! I am grateful for the internet and the anonymity it gives me, a person who from childhood was labeled and 'tracked' into the hard sciences, a chance to play at being an artist without fearing the opinions of others. I love your hippos and the sense of joy they hold!!

  8. Thank you for sharing yourself. I'm intrigued by your journey and am glad to see the hippos again!

  9. This hippo journal page is gorgeous! The hippos are so fun! and the background fabulous. Love your other pages too, with a special liking for the cute little fish, and the beautiful colors your used around him, it's a very soothing piece, I feel.