"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

news flash * * * 58 year old woman tries new stuff

Today is my birthday! 

No one has asked for a birthday message, but I’ve got one anyway:

It is never too late to try new stuff.

It’s always been hard for me to call myself an “artist” mostly because (in my mind, at any rate) an artist should know how to… gulp… draw. I’ve always been a decent doodler, but that’s about it. Seriously not a drawer or, heavens no! never a painter. I wish I was, though, that’s for sure.

Just before I left Portland, I stumbled upon a great sale at Dick Blick’s and loaded up on all sorts of art supplies to take to Uganda. The children at the orphanage can (and do) teach me a thing or two about drawing and painting every time I go.

I decided to crack open one of the boxes of pastels. I’ve watched Willy, Brian, Nicky, Oscar, Leku, Issy and the others work magic with them in the art room. I’ve watched, but I’ve never felt confident enough to make even a mark with one of the colorful pieces of chalk.

But one night in Estes Park, I decided to do just that. I opened up a sketch pad and started drawing, then blending the strokes together. An  hour or so later, by the time I cleaned up the mess and went to bed, I was hooked.

I started by making drawings of heads. Still very timid, I only used the black stick at first. I did so many drawings that first night and blended the strokes with such enthusiasm that by the next morning three fingers on my right had had been rubbed raw.

When I got back to Kansas City, I continued to play around with my box of pastels and bought a new, larger pad of charcoal paper. I rubbed more lightly, and I ventured into color.

I tried to create something magical.

I tried to be very careful.

I tried to be spontaneous, loose and messy.

So messy, in fact, that when I left my studio the other day and met up with a friend, she said, “Boy, you got yourself quite a shiner. What happened?” It took me a minute to realize I had probably wiped my filthy, pastel powdered hand across my face, just close enough to my eye that it appeared as if I'd walked into a cabinet or been on the receiving end of errant pop fly at a Royals game. 

I love the physicality of laying down the marks and blending the colors. I love the grit behind my nails when I’m finished. I love that I have no idea what I’m about to try to make when I face a blank piece of paper and lift a stick out of its little compartment in the cardboard box. I love that I can just throw away anything that doesn't work and keep reaching for the next piece of paper.

Mostly I love that I'm doing something brand new on the occasion of turning 58 and celebrating yet another year of living this 'ole life of mine.

Old dog, new tricks! Yay!!

Now pass that olive green stick my way, please. Oh, and try something new today. Even if you're old like me!

(Did you know that in Portland older folks are not called elderly or anything remotely comparable. We are called "honored citizens." I like it!)


Jessica said...

Those are great drawings. I really like them! Happy Birthday, Gloria! In your honor, I will try to draw a picture today, too. Probably just with a pencil. ;o)

Unknown said...

Seems people think they can't draw because there are those few whose drawing skills seem to simply flow through their fingertips without any work. They just draw beautifully, and if your drawings don't just happen like that, then you can't draw at all.

But here's a little secret... drawing can be learned!! You just have to do it, and allow yourself to fail at it. The more drawings you make, the better they get. And with practice, you can draw!

I love your drawings Gloria!

smm said...

Happy Birthday Gloria. What a wonderful Birthday present to give to yourself. You are always an inspiration to us "honored citizens".

stacie said...

Last spring I sat down with my water color supplies and joined the Orr street studios artists in a still life painting session. They were all very encouraging and it was exhilarating doing something I've told myself I'm no good at doing! Way to go, old dog! And happy birthday!

Anonymous said...

You're in trouble now! Once you start experimenting its over its all fun and you can't stop! Enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

Love these, Gloria!
- JM

Unknown said...

Love the drawings! Does this mean you are going to Uganda too???
Happy Birthday, Gloria! Keep inspiring the rest of us.

Meg said...

Hooray for you! So glad you are shiner-free, dear Gloria, and tapped into even more creativity!

Happiest birthday to you, M

Gloria Baker Feinstein said...

Thanks, all. Your words are encouraging!! Thanks for them. And for the birthday wishes.

Jane, I am going to Uganda in two weeks!

Thanks to all of you for helping make my day a wonderful one.