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My Why

A couple weeks ago I was sitting at a craft fair, the final one of the season. It had hadn’t been well advertised, so no one was selling much. It was just an opportunity to see friends and neighbors, but those opportunities turn out to make some of the nicest days.

An artist friend of mine wandered by my booth, and we caught up with each other about what our kids are doing. She was getting ready for an open studio tour the next weekend, and we started talking about art and practice.

She works in ceramics, teaching her art and creating museum quality pieces of China featuring women in combat. The work is spectacular, and she often credits her evolution as an artist to her experience getting an MFA.

“It was more than just honing my craft,” she said. “Because of the work I did, now I think more about why I make what I make.”

My art is pretty cyclical. In the winter I tend to write more and do watercolors. When the weather gets warm, I get out the oils and go outside. The in between season, when I’m finding my way from one pole to the other, is sometimes confusing but also reflective. It wasn’t until my conversation with my friend, however, that I understood why I wander each season.

I’ve started to realize that making art is something I have to do, but I often feel guilty about it. I worry about the wastefulness of resources in a world that is suffocating from human consumption, and that worry makes me keener to create something that matters in the long run.

Friday afternoon I stayed after school for a while to read IEP’s to verify my data collection. The files include academic goals, and they also cover behavioral issues, including some of the history behind those issues. Sometimes the histories resonate too well, and I come home to my studio to vent on my canvas.

What’s on the canvas rarely has to do with anything in a file. It just gets me closer to mountains and woods and farther from the knowledge of the things people do to each other.

Instead of a canvas, last Friday night brought me back to a children’s book idea that began germinating before I started teaching, even before the #metoo movement was born. It’s a story about a little troll who became a troll because something happened to her. she believes all the negative things people say about trolls until she discovers her own truth.

I had started illustrating the book a couple years ago but put it away because I didn’t like the art. Now it feels like it’s coming back into my life at the perfect time, at a time when I need to find my own truths about art and know why am making what I’m making.