Monday, June 14, 2010

Understanding Myself: Growing up artist

So what to do when you are born to be an artist, if there is such a thing as a born artist?

I'm the itty-bittiest in this photo. My brother Reggie is tall on right. Herbie, our tall friend, at his party, on left.
Not sure I was an artist then, but my mom said people could not believe I did the drawings she showed them when I was 5 years old. According to her, her friends said I needed to go to art school IF I did the pictures! OK cool...I was a 10 year old who was always a little out of sync with the "normal" people. (I really don't remember much before 10.).  I didn't care if I looked like everyone else or dressed like everyone else or thought like everyone else! What does it mean when a child is  "in her head" so much, dreaming of things, imagining home with fairy tales and other books I was lucky to have. If you have a kid like this be gentle, he or she is probably an artist!

Strange that people liked me, anyway. Even though I was really on another planet. When I noticed they liked me I wondered what there was to like? I moved as through a mental fog. Physically I moved quickly, always anxious to reach my destination.  At a young age I found dance class. I really loved dancing and still do. I took ballet, tap and later African (that practically killed me!). I took myself to dance classes when still in elementary school. I took myself to art classes and even won a blue ribbon for my work. Lucky again, the neighborhood playground offered these classes and I could go on my own since it was about two blocks away from my house in Philadelphia.

My mother said most creative types have multiple talents, except her! She could only sing, she said, but she said I could do a lot of things! Among my gifts was my ability to figure out what to do with my hands, she told me. She  watched me, trying to figure out how to hold her hands when she sang, admitting she never knew what to do with them, but I always seemed to know exactly what to do with mine!

 Here is a rare photo of my mother and father with my grandmother. My mother was performing in a movie theater! That's her poster in the windows!

So, how lucky was it to be born a natural artist, the youngest in a family of three children who were spread apart enough that we were almost only children and almost no one paying much attention to what I did. Our mother was divorced and traveled to sing, but always made sure we were protected. And she understood the urge for creativity. And I had plenty of time to dream! I felt alone, though, because no one else drew or painted but me. It certainly wasn't the same as singing or taking photos or playing piano. We had all of that among my uncles and mom!

She thought I was strange (yes, my Mother!). She even told me my grandmother thought I was strange. Let me tell you, once you hear your grandmother thinks you are weird, there is nothing that can harm you! But most importantly my mother honored my creativity.  When I asked for piano lessons she found a teacher. When I asked for art classes she allowed me to go. When I said I was going to be an artist she said OK. She indulged my attempts to sing, encouraging me even though I was insecure next to her powerhouse of a voice. She really hoped I would sing because she could pave the way for me. But I had pictures in my head that needed to come out. So with no idea except I wanted to make art I decided to pursue it! My mom did stipulate that I had to be an art teacher because everyone knows artists don't make enough money to support themselves!!

Tune in for more tales of growing up artist!