the celestial teapot did not magically gift me
I’m so grateful to everyone for their donations to my mom’s garage sale. It went very well and I even sneaked a creepy black dress from the sale to add to my costume collection. My mom is amazing for putting that all together on such short notice. She’s just awesome like that. I grew up watching her make money on the side with garage sales, cutting and perming hair out of our kitchen, babysitting and all sorts of hobbies turned profitable. Often she would do what she could for people at no charge, and what I learned from all of it was that helping people feels good, and when times are rough there are always ways to make money. When I was in high school she was my first business investor, starting me out with $50 worth of candy from Costco. I sold them for just under the vending machine prices and made enough money to support artistic hobbies like purchasing film for photography and more sketchbooks than I ever needed. I also carried the nickname “the candy girl” for a while because not everyone knew my name, but all school-aged kids know where to find sugar. I’ve followed in my mother’s footsteps, always having more than one source of income. Like children of good teachers do, I surpassed her small side-ventures with my photography, at times making nearly enough to quit my day job. Before cancer I was well on my way to my goal to be working for myself by the time I’m forty. I have ten years left and I like to hope I can still get there.
I’ve been lucky to have several good teachers in my life, and I’ve been smart enough to listen to them. The example from my father was that I can master anything I put ten-thousand hours into. It may be at the expense of relationship-building, but sometimes that’s what it takes to master a talent. I think in both of our cases, perfecting a talent can be a more comfortable use of our time than socializing, but I’m happy to report I’ve slowly grown into a healthy social life. When people talk about my artistic talents as being a “natural ability” or a “gift” I grind my teeth and hold back the urge to stab them in the eye with my drawing utensils. Instead of spending time making friends, I hid in my room for hours and hours and hours doing nothing but practicing. It was natural for me to be alone, and I filled that time by doing what I enjoyed doing, but there is absolutely nothing about art that comes to me naturally. Even my desire to do it comes from being raised by people who also enjoy it, making it seem like something I should do, too. My grandpa has a wood shop and I remember watching him closely and wishing I could play with the big dangerous toys. In kindergarten he carved a gingerbread man from wood, and my grandma and I painted it in her craft room. The best I can say as far as “nature” is concerned is that I was raised watching other people expressing creativity, and so I did not fear it. That’s the thing about being artistic, most of an artist’s success is their lack of fear of failure. For every good drawing I did, there were a hundred lousy sketches. For every good painting, the same. You have to be comfortable with the fact that you aren’t going to make a masterpiece every time.
To anyone who says they want to be an artist, but lack the talent, I strongly disagree. What you lack is practice and the confidence to throw out the failures and keep pushing yourself. Anyone can be an artist just like anyone can read and write if they practice enough. If all you need is someone to believe in you, I am that person. We may not know each other, but I can guarantee you that I believe in you, because I believe anyone can be an artist. If all you need is a good teacher, find one. You’d be amazed how many people are willing to teach you what you want to know. There was a time when I had felt that I mastered art, but what I lacked was professionalism and a mind for business, so I set out to find a good example of that. I found my current boss. Our first three years together I don’t think he even knew how closely I was watching him, and eventually I was able to express my gratitude to him for his strong example and he came back at me with even more lessons and challenges to help me grow. These kind and caring people are all around us, willing to teach us what they know. Whatever you want to learn, know that it is possible. Wait around to be “gifted” and you’ll be waiting a long time. Accept the gift of knowledge from others and your talents will grow exponentially.