McLeod in the Morning

Let’s Start With Art

“Do what you love.” Yeah, right.When? In between taking the kids to school and throwing out the garbage? Zen philosophy says love your chores and find true peace and joy — easy to say. Actually, it’s probably not the chores that drain us, it’s just so many chores.

The luxury of free time, time to daydream . . . it’s very creative. Funny, while we drag our kids to every creative workshop and cultural experience, we rail at them for not being productive, for daydreaming.

“Stop daydreaming!” We find ourselves resenting them because wouldn’t we like to do it, too? We are such an advanced society — too much opportunity, if you ask me, too many choices.

I stopped reading the daily paper years ago. I’d like to say it was some grand philosophical decision but I just didn’t have time. I frankly, don’t know what’s going on. I don’t care. What a confession — my world was just too big for me. We are such an information society. For me it is an overload. If I can just take care of the people around me, I’ve had a good day.

True creativity is totally nonverbal; or, perhaps, non-thought — like meditation. It comes from a stream of spiritual instincts. Even good writing flows from a non-thought source, I think. Did I say “I think”? Forgive me. Geez, we really can’t help ourselves.

Each new school year, as I begin to teach art, I have to lay bare the fears of my students — fear that they won’t succeed. Of course, the little ones are still free, but the teenagers are possessed by the same fears as their parents. “I can’t draw.” If I hear that one more time I’ll scream. Who cares? That’s not what it’s all about. Art is a search, an adventure, a trial-and-error experiment. There is no failure . . . ever. It’s impossible. What an incredible freedom, there’s only you and the “problem” at hand. A problem that doesn’t even matter. This fearless adventure of creativity is a true and joyous giving of oneself over to the path to enlightenment. Art, like life, is a process, not a product. The only failure is fear.

For four years, every Wednesday night, I open my classroom to Adult Education. The turnout is dismal. And yet, so many parents profess a desire to participate but feel they can’t. They can’t find the time or are afraid they’re not “good enough”. The ones that do come leave refreshed and laughing and fulfilled. So many times I have to beat them up to get them to come, as they fight guilty feelings that they have so much to do or are so tired. But they are always glad they came. It’s just about everyone’s story. Are we all waiting around to retire?

Even in the hectic world of art, the pressure to succeed prevails. It’s a business. I spent ten years resisting what I wanted to do because it wasn’t important, esoteric or intellectual, feeling guilty that I loved to paint “pretty pictures”, not “real art”. Then I ran into a teacher who told me “Do what you love and you’ll be successful.” that was a great turning point for me as an artist.

I don’t know why I’m obsessed with my little illustrations of island life; but I know I love it and it keeps me healthy to let THAT love flow. And, you know, it’s not important. So what? What really is that important?

Creativity is a gift in our human nature. Whatever you consider your art, it’s time to make it essential. Even if it’s just daydreaming.