This was in part the traditional Gen X upbringing of being pretty much left to our own devices but it was also the result of a family tragedy. My little brother Robbie was taken by cancer when he was only 6 years old. My parents were overwhelmed with grief, leaving my sister Suzie and I to do our best taking care of ourselves.
Being a sensitive and introverted girl meant that I found great solace in my own company, as well as in books, music, colouring, puppets, a journal and the willow tree in our backyard. When I was in my own little world, all was well. To this day I am quite excellent at being on my own and finding things to do, create and explore.
But also, being a sensitive and introverted girl, I found myself anxious in the bigger social world, where finding my way without guidance was fraught with ways of getting it wrong. The only rule that seemed clear was to do well in school, so I did that. Everything else I learned from keen observation because I was far too shy to ask.
Much of the time, this is still how I work. I remember braving my first drawing class at an art school, walking in early and seeing people putting up easels, grabbing stools. I felt that familiar sense of shrinking and freezing, wondering, “How the heck do they know what to do?” Then I watched and waited until things became clear.
What has emerged from a lifetime of these uncomfortable experiences has been my deep commitment to always sharing what I have learned in the hope of making things easier for others. For example, when I was in high school I volunteered to wear blue and white ribbons during the first week of school that signaled to anyone new, “If you ask me where the gym is, I will point you to the gym, not to the music room.” (By the way, that happened to me in first year.)
Because it has been hard for me to find my way on my own, I want to make it easier for you.
This studio, these letters, my classes, the podcast, all of these things are rooted in my desire to share what I can to help you find your way along your artistic path. In my programs and classes, I encourage my students to do this for one another. Today I want to encourage you to do the same.
Never underestimate the wealth of wisdom that you have earned in your lifetime and how a simple sharing of information might help someone onto their path, especially when it comes to art. We all know what it’s like to feel clueless, left out and intimidated by everything from classes to equipment to stores. Together we can change that. We can be the ones who generously share knowledge, experience and resources. We can be the ones who are welcoming, who notice when someone is lost, who offer intel as well as kindness – with no attachment or pressure, just the sincere desire to help.
If we all share what we learn, if we all reach back and lend a hand in this life and on this creative path, none of us will be in it alone.