I live by the sentiment that I will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. Ninety-nine percent of the time I live in peace with past and present. But that one percent can be a thorn. It deals with my decision in college and grad school not to follow my love of drawing and painting.
At the age of seven I knew what I wanted to be: a writer. I commandeered my mother’s old manual typewriter from the 1930s (I still have it!) and pounded out story after story at my little desk in our basement. I was writer, editor, printer, and illustrator of my own little books. One of the most prominent memories from that time was that darn typewriter and how I literally had to hammer each key to get it to print, with mom upstairs calling “You better not break that typewriter.” When the black ribbon that ran from spool to spool would come to an end, I had to rewind it. Usually I could almost get three rewinds off the ribbon before I had to beg a new one off my mother.
“What are you writing down there”, she’d ask while handing over yet another fresh black ribbon.
“Nothing.” I’d say. The classic kid response to everything.
In addition to the typewriter on my little desk, what once was a tin can of peas was now a holder for pens, drawing pencils, editing pencils, and a pink eraser. Stored in the desk cubby hole was paper for the typewriter, carbon paper, paper for drawing, and the old standard black and white cardboard covered notebooks used for school, but which I used for journaling all my ideas both written and drawn. I was a conservationist’s nightmare when it came to paper products. I also had, prominently displayed next to a large old fashioned industrial counting machine, a pink message pad with the words While You Were Out printed boldly across the top.
In high school, I dropped story writing for poetry. I call those four years my Lord Byron period. I also drew a lot and discovered painting and art class. I was drawn to poets like Silvia Plath and other writers and artists who had tragic endings. I could understand why she put her head in an oven. I comprehended why Hemingway shot himself. Mom and the school counselor introduced me to psychology via the school psychologist. The upshot of which was I stopped writing so they had nothing to read. I withdrew into my world of drawings and paintings most of which had to do with what would be called fantasy art: a world of fairies and elves. I had found Tolkein, Beowulf, King Arthur, Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight. My art teacher and I formally parted ways in that I took no further classes with him. He wasn’t into fantasy art. So on my free periods I would sit in the school hallway and draw.
When college time came my parents and grandparents all agreed that unless I was going to study something that had relevance (translation: that led to a J-O-B) they would not be funding my education. And so I studied journalism, Literature and creative writing. I took no art classes, but for one where I honed my focus to drawing broken things. The art teacher just couldn’t understand why I wasn’t studying art. I had the talent but I needed the formal knowledge. I almost switched. But the family financial aid would go away and so I didn’t step foot in another art class.
But I guess it all worked out as it should. Perhaps I was not ready to study art. I don’t think I would have made it to here because I was in a period of my life in which I was shutting down. I have found that I can’t make art and be shut down; apart from my emotions. Everything I create requires me to be emotionally involved with it. Even the knitted garments I create engage my emotions. I really have to feel when making art.