Several years ago, when we were still living in Texas, Bug had a playdate. The father of the “date” came to drop him off. We did not know each other well and I could sense that he was a little unsure about leaving his son with a virtual stranger. I invited the man into my home.
One of the first things one saw when one entered that home was the piano my parents gave me when I was 10.
“Do you play the piano?” the man asked me.
“Sort of…I haven’t had a lesson since I was in highschool.”
I offered him a seat and asked if I could excuse my self for a bit because I had been painting and I needed to clean the paint from my brush before it dried. He excused me and asked if he could see the piece.
“So you’re an artist.”
“You ‘sort of’ play the piano and you are ‘sort of’ an artist?”
I don’t remember the man’s name or his son’s. I don’t even remember what I had been painting but his final question has stuck with me for years.
In the year or two before we moved my friends had been encouraging me to embrace my “inner artist.”
“I don’t think copying other people’s work constitutes being an ‘artist,'” I’d argued.
But they insisted I was an artist. A talented artist.
I was just beginning to sort of, kind of believe their hype when we moved. There is some truth in saying that you are, believing that you are means it’s so. Within reason and with in the bounds of common sense. I have painted for hire so I supposed that meant I was not a complete liar if I claimed to be an artist. I decided that to everyone new I met I would be known as an artist.
Caren was the first person I met in Colorado (besides our realtor.)
“What do you do?” she asked me.
Say it. You’re going to make it real now.
“I’m an artist,” I claimed. She went on to ask what medium I used and what style I painted in. All of which I B.S.ed with grace.
A few days later I was in her home and found that it was adorned with actual art pieces by real artists. She even had a sculpture in her backyard of an artist that I have always been particularly fond of. Turns out, her aunt owns an art gallery.
Crap. I can’t believe I told this lady I was an artist.
To her credit, Caren has never called me out on my false claim. In fact, she refused to let me retract it. One day she told me of a cafe in a nearby town that had switched owners.
“They want to hang up works of local artists to sell. You should totally look into displaying your stuff there!”
I was intrigued and thought I would look into it. I wasn’t really sure of where the place was located and it gave me a perfect “out” from truly following through. A few months later we met for lunch in that same town and that restaurant also had local artist’s work displayed. Some of it was really “WOW” and some of it looked like stuff I could do. Some of those pieces were priced at $1000 or more.
“I wish I could do it. I’m just…scared for one, but also I don’t really have my own ideas. They all come from somewhere else.”
After the lunch Caren told me to follow her to the cafe.
“Just so you can look and see what they have there.”
The works at the cafe were nothing compared to what was at that restaurant. I could definitely call what I do “art” compared to those pieces.
“Yeah…I could do it here,” I thought out loud.
“Excuse me,” Caren approached an employee of the cafe. “Who do we speak to about displaying art work here?”
The girl ran off to get said person. I glared at Caren.
“Do you want me to do the talking?” she asked.
“No! I can handle this.” I introduced myself and asked the appropriate questions and then we left. I don’t like to be forced into thing so I was mad. I got in my car, threw the gear into reverse and stormed out of my parking spot. Then it hit me… I pulled up next to Caren. She rolled down her window in response to me rolling down mine.
“Yes…?” Caren asked.
“I had big plans to storm out of here. Big plans! But I don’t know how to get home from here.”
“Follow me!” she laughed.
On another occasion Caren called to see if I would like to go to an art gallery in down town with her. She had a piece that her aunt had asked her to deliver. I agreed and we planned to meet after changing out of our Mountain Casual into City Chic. When I got to her house we wrapped the painting in an old blanket she had in her basement and loaded into the back of The Stink Bug (may she rest in peace). As we headed to the gallery I asked Caren about the piece and I learned that it was worth about the cost of a car. I burst into laughter.
“I never would have imagined that I would ever be transporting a [so many] thousand dollar art piece wrapped in a nasty old blanket and by way of this musty old car. This is not nearly as sexy as it should be!”
Once at the gallery we unloaded the painting and delivered it to the owner of the gallery. She made small talk with Caren asking her about her aunt and then Caren introduced me to her.
“This is my friend, Michal. She is also an artist.”
You will die.
“Really? What medium do you use?”
Some call it “craft paint.”
Caren just beamed over the dealers shoulder, proud of herself for pushing me out into the deep end.
Last week after I asked Man if I could take PKT (Filipino blade fighting) he asked me to get a sitter lined up for a night so we could go out and have a talk.
Oh boy. Here it comes. He’s going to tell me that I need to pull myself out of my funk. Stop partying so much with my friends and start taking care of the house better. He’s going to say that I am a silly dreamer and that I need to be an adult, that my job is important and I need to treat it as such.
I planned all of my counter responses including a couple of quotes from Einstein.
That oughta show him! You can’t really argue with genius.
At our dinner he shared with me all of the amazing things that were happening for him at work. Which is awesome and something I really am proud of! I told him I had an interview with the hospital to do volunteer work.
“Is that what you really want to do?” he asked.
“I have to do something.”
We stared at each other in silence.
“I would like to do it. I think it will be good.”
Periods of long silence is pretty much par for the course when you are married to Man but these ones were uncomfortable and full. He looked me right in the eye and I stared right back. We both had so much that we wanted to say. So I started.
“I very much value my job as a mother and wife. I am very grateful to have the opportunity to stay home and be there when needed. It’s just that most of the time what I am needed for are the housekeeping duties. I just don’t want my big life’s achievement to be that I helped you and the boys succeed. I mean…I want that to be ONE of my achievements but it can’t be all.”
“So what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know…” Tears sprang to my eyes.
“Here’s the thing, Baby: you have so many talents. You have more talents than most people I know and way more than me. Pick one! If you want to be a writer, write every day. If you are an artist then paint. But you have to make a choice. Choose something and whatever it is I will support you 100%.”
“But…it’s not that easy. You just don’t decide to be an artist. I can write and do write everyday but that does not mean that you will be published.”
“It will be hard. It will be long but if you start now then by the time the boys leave you will already have something going for you. You are in the perfect position to succeed. You don’t have to work outside the home. You live in a country that is set up for you to make it and in a day and age where you can. As a woman you are in the perfect place because in the past women did not have this kind of choice. One day you will be held accountable as to wether or not you used the gifts God blessed you with. You need to decide to make something of yourself or you are right: You will be that woman standing there waving goodbye to her sons and have nothing else. They will leave.”
“Yes they will. I want them to! It’s God’s plan that they should grow up and go. I’m not afraid of that. I don’t know what to do. I…I just don’t know where to start. And…well, if I could do anything I would be a performer but that doesn’t work for our family.”
“I really don’t mind you performing but you can’t ‘check out’ when you do but if you want to do that I am fine with it. I really think you should look at doing something with your art. There are very few people who can just pick up a brush and figure it all out on their own. You’ve never had a class. Art is just in you. Personally, I think you could do all of it.”
I sat there crying and staring into my wine glass. We didn’t speak again for a long time.
“You know, Einstein was a complete failure until he was in college and happened to take a physics class. You have to find your thing and run with it,” Man said.
You are freakin’ kidding me. Is he using Einstein on me?! That was my plan!
A few weeks ago Caren had given me a challenge to make 10 of my poppy pieces. My poppy piece is something that I am so proud of! It’s a piece that is truly all me. It wasn’t ripped off…er…inspired by another art piece. So many people have asked me to make it for them and I haven’t because part of the media is back in Texas.
“There are similar things you could use,” Caren argued. “Then you could auction it on eBay or etsy. And as far as you thinking that you ‘copy’ other artists, there is a saying that says there is nothing that the Greeks have not already done. None of it is new. No new stories or art, just different interpretations.”
The gauntlet has been thrown (rather it’s been smacking me in the face). I am off to be an artist. Hopefully I don’t get paint on my superhero cape.