“You have created beauty on the page, something to be enjoyed. The simple curves and bends of your sunset painting are the difference between “cold facts” and “warm feelings. I had to put my dog down last month, have recently gone through a divorce and am now providing 24/7 hospice home care for my terminally-ill father and I have been gazing at your painting for the past fifteen minutes and it has just filled me with peace. A calm. I know that this difficult time will pass but I want to remember it as a time of growth as opposed to loss. Please keep painting. I love your work.”
As so many of you know, the story behind the scenes is often so much richer than what the rest of the world sees. I’m not sharing “my first watercolor sale” to boast (though, yeah, it fills me with pride and delight! Even though all I see are the flaws in the painting I didn’t want to even post!) but the story behind the “sale” is so sweet, with so many life lessons, I thought I’d bare my creative insecurities to share the pearls within…
As some of you know, I’d been getting my Fine Art Certificate at Otis (Parsons School of Art), just plugging along, taking one class at a time, partly for the pure joy of it, partly because I knew all of it would enrich me as an overall “artist” but specifically as a burgeoning director, for sure as a writer, maybe someday as a children’s storybook author/illustrator – or who knows? Maybe someday a fine artist?! (Churchill didn’t even start painting ’til he was forty!). Regardless, the study or practice of any art enhances the way you appreciate and enjoy the world around you – so it’s worth it for that all by itself. (Plus: it all makes you a better photographer and traveler!).
Tony Bottorff was sharing his current creative struggle on the Mensa Show Biz board. He talked about how hard he was finding it to come from being at the top of the food chain (or at least enjoying some career success) in one artistic arena (music) to having to start all over at the bottom of the totem pole in another (acting) – especially after relocating. His words really rang true to me because I found myself at a similar crossroads in my own career and creative life. I had just relocated back to Marina Del Rey after my directorial debut and was feeling quite at the bottom of any and all pecking orders after having enjoyed a decade or two of career traction as a writer and producer. Plus: I was reluctantly following in his footsteps, as well, both of us dealing with caregiving issues with our fathers. Watercolor painting had become my blissful “lose time” escape.
So, I reached out to him – as a virtual stranger – and encouraged him and rooted him on with whatever authentic advice I had to offer (as a Director/Producer to an Actor). As we bonded over finding confidence in the applicability of our transferrable skills and the hard-won perspectives maturity afforded, we became online artrepreneurial friends. I shared how fascinating I was finding it being a true beginner in a whole new art form (watercolor painting) – and how much I was learning through that – ironically – as a writing teacher, acquiring a whole new perspective of what it must feel like for rookie writers to find themselves in my classrooms full of produced and award winning screenwriters just as I found myself trying to draw two stick figures in a room full of national juried artists who hung in galleries around the world!
Tony asked me to share some of my paintings and I, reluctantly, “came out of the creative closet” to him, sharing with him – as the first person outside of my immediate family and close friends (and teachers and classmates) to ever see what I still call my “refrigerator art” (only parents could love!). So, to hear what he wrote above on one of my very first efforts brought me to tears. Then, when he offered to buy it, I was beside myself! I immediately said “No” (foolishly rejecting the universe!). I retorted – honestly – that it would be my honor to gift it to him. And that was true. But, as a fellow artist, he kindly refused my counter offer and reminded me that he valued me as an artist and that my art had done its job – it had given him peace and joy – and he wanted to reward me for that – and own it, so he could replicate that feeling any time he looked at it. I relented and told him I’d “sell” it to him for one dollar. He gave me one hundred. Which, I promised him I’d spend on watercolor paints. Which I did. With relish!
Tony said that he set the painting at the edge of his father’s bed and it gave him peace, too. And they talked. A lot. That they had a difficult relationship and with my painting there between them, dad opened up more and they chatted like they hadn’t in a long time. His father Jack even sent me some of his poetry with a lovely thank you note – right before he passed. It brings me to tears again just typing this. After his father passed, Tony sent me a pic of the painting on his mantle. Wow. How cool is that?! That is the power of art. Connecting people. Reminding us of the beauty of life. All around us. I feel so privileged to have had my fledgling art play a tiny part in giving two near strangers peace during their difficult threshold. And I just wanted to share my bittersweet joy. And the many lessons I learned, too.