Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Why Art Insomnia?

There I was, sitting on the floor, surrounded in a sea of buttons. I was sorting them out into little piles of colors and size, and creating pictures on the carpet. I was about four years old when I had that first creative experience.

My Grandmother, who I called Nana, was the most wonderful seamstress. I remember lying on a sheet of newspaper so she could trace the outline of my body. From this crude pattern, she would sew the most beautiful dresses, fit for a princess. She had two huge coffee cans full to the top with buttons, and she would always let me pick out the buttons to sew on my dresses. Nana introduced me to crafting at an early age. We would make things to sell at the bazaar to raise money for the Salvation Army Church she belonged to.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to marry Batman when I grew up. Then I got a little older and decided I wanted to be a Veterinarian or an Artist. A little older still, I realized that I was way too soft hearted to see animals in pain. After crafting with my Grandmother for most of my young life, and later becoming teacher's pet in all of my art classes in high school, it was apparent that I wanted to be an Artist. Being a Pisces didn't hurt either. It seemed that I had all the personality traits that were usually associated with an Artist. I was aloof and sensitive. I loved to pretend and explore. I especially recall the words “creative”, “imaginative” and “daydreamer” on my report cards all throughout school. My fifth grade art teacher told my mother that she should do everything she could to encourage me to continue with my art. Everything I made for her was proudly displayed in our home.

Later on as a teenager, I started to develop a real interest in drawing. My aunt Diane, who has been a constant source of encouragement over the years, took me to a real art supply store for the very first time. She bought a real artist’s sketch pad, a set of charcoal pencils and a big set of pastels for me. She also bought me a kneaded gum eraser because that’s what the “professionals” used. I felt so grown up that day. I felt as if I had crossed over from being the “refrigerator artist” to a level where I would be developing a talent that would help me fulfill my dream of becoming an artist. Diane saw something in me back then, which I had yet to see in myself. (I still use that very same eraser every time I sketch, and I think it has been my lucky charm.)

At the age of sixteen, I dropped out of high school, against my Mothers wishes, and got a job. It was a struggle for my Mom, raising two girls on her own and I thought I could help out financially. A gas station, a sub shop and a fast food chicken joint later, I still had no clue what I wanted to do. My Mom always said that to get anywhere, I had to find a job where there was room to advance, and stick with it. At the age of seventeen, I took a job with a manufacturing company that showed potential. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but I stuck it out for ten long years before leaving. Out of work, and my marriage falling apart, I knew I wasn’t going anywhere without a dime in my pocket to call my own. I took a job with another manufacturing company, saved up a few dollars and was divorced soon after.

I stayed with this company for thirteen years. I worked my way up from an entry level position as an Assembler to a Management position as their Customer Service Supervisor. In those thirteen years, I married the love of my life, Brian. (Who’s a much better husband than Batman would have been.) We’ve built a beautiful new home together and raised two precious kitty cats that are the lights of our lives. We’ve made lots of money and bought lots of things, but in the last few years, I started to become depressed. Overworked and feeling under appreciated, the stress of my job was killing me. Faced with added responsibilities and an understaffed department, the stress started to manifest into physical symptoms. I was literally on the verge of a nervous breakdown. My poor, sweet husband, trying so hard to be supportive, told me, “Why don’t you go talk to your doctor? They could give you something for your depression”. Hearing those words made me realize that I had to do something. So I decided that I was going to fix what was wrong with my life. Then something very strange happened. In a brief moment of mental clarity, it occurred to me that at the age of 40, I was not what I wanted to be when I grew up! I had let my dreams slip away from me. I had turned them down so low that I couldn’t hear them anymore.

It took me forty-five minutes to write a letter of resignation that consisted of three sentences. Walking away from a good paying job would prove to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But the next morning when I gave the letter to my boss, I realized that I was doing the right thing. From the moment the letter left my fingertips, I could breathe again. My last day would be December 31, 2003. I was so excited about finally becoming a full time artist and the last day of the year couldn’t come soon enough.

So now it was a new year and I had a new life, and I also had my work cut out for me. My first order of business was to rearrange some rooms in my home to accommodate a combination of an office and a studio. Before I could start moving furniture I had to clean out my craft closet that was stacked floor to ceiling with things that I would probably never get the chance to work on. I went to the store and bought a bunch of large plastic, see through tubs to organize what I would be keeping. As I began the monumental task of straightening everything out, I told myself that if I couldn’t use it for bead making, I that I would toss it or donate it. It was really hard to go through things I hadn’t seen in years without stopping to fiddle around with it, but I was on a mission and stayed focused on the task at hand.

That was until I found the buttons. They were a precious piece of my childhood, given to me when my Nana passed away. And before I knew it, I found myself sitting on the floor, surrounded in a sea of buttons. I was sorting them out into little piles of colors and size, and creating pictures on the carpet. And at that moment I realized that I had found something that I had lost so long ago. I promised myself right then, that I would never let my dreams slip away again.

So now I dream with my eyes wide open, and the dreams play so loud in my head, that often I can’t sleep. But it’s not just the usual insomnia…..It’s creative adrenaline…..It’s the excitement of my next project…..It’s knowing that I’m finally doing something that I’m passionate about.

It’s Art Insomnia, because Art never sleeps.

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