A Visit with my Former Self

This is going to be hard.

I must admit I sat here for quite a few minutes trying to figure out how to start this post. I did a lot of backtracking and deleting, a lot of rewriting, and a lot of complaining. This is the exact reason why this week I took the plunge and cracked open the pages of The Artist’s Way. I have found that the more time that passes in life the less creative I have become. Well, not less creative per se, but less able to tap into that creative reservoir that was once flowing with ideas. I feel as if I haven’t been able to fully express my ideas and opinions, thoughts, wants, needs, and everything else that rushes forth when I open my mouth to speak, pick up a pen to write, or tap out on the computer keyboard a few lines of a book that seems like it will never be written. This is why I need The Artist’s Way. I’ve been doing my morning pages- I love the morning pages and yet I hate the morning pages. So many times I think but do not write, and the morning pages are a wonderful tool to clear my mind of its dust and clutter. Sometimes I find old treasures when I clear out my mind and I’m sure that in the years to come when I go back and read my morning pages I’ll find such treasures. What I love the most about the morning pages exercise is that I’m writing for myself alone. I don’t have to worry about grammar, spelling, COMMA SPLICES (I’m such an offender!) and anything else that would make me less appealing as an artist or as a writer. I’ve felt so free after I’ve finished those 3 simple pages. I find that I’ve been doing a lot of “blurting” inside my head and I’m really trying to work on that. When I try to turn my blurts into affirmations I find that I am making excuses for why my blurts are actually true. I will definitely need to sort that out before I can become free.

Today I decided to do the second weekly required activity: the artist’s date. I thought for a few days about what I’d like to do. I decided that since I’ve been digging up so many negative emotions in my morning pages and some of the week one activities deal with confronting enemies of my creative self-worth that I would spend time getting to know the artist I once was.

So this afternoon I got into the closet in my office and dug out my black leather portfolio that holds my very best work, and my overused cloth, over the shoulder, good-grief-I-hated-lugging-that-awful-thing-around-during-college portfolio. I couldn’t think of two better symbols to represent my public and private self- what I prize and what I keep as a reminder of how much of a failure I feel like. (Why do I keep those things?) Now I will keep them as a reminder of what I will overcome.

I took some pictures to document my findings. Who knows, it might be years again before I delve into these projects!

Here’s the leather portfolio case- see how much dust?! This thing is pretty beaten up outside and has managed to survive quite a few moves. I wonder what’s inside…

Some things inside that made me smile and laugh…

a b


d e

And some things that made me sad or angry

f g h

i j

There is a story behind each of these photos…

The story of a: I laugh whenever I see this painting for a few different reasons. In a painting course we were supposed to do a self-portrait and this is what my typical artist angst ridden self came up with. I laugh because I always did break the rules. (And I can’t believe I ever thought of myself that way, either. So not me anymore!) The second, and most important reason that this is funny is because this painting was stolen! On the day I finished the painting I left it in my studio space to dry and planned on picking it up later. When I returned it was missing! I was so angry and I had to repaint the entire piece to be able to be graded on it. Months later a friend found my original painting that someone had been passing off as their own. Perhaps if I had just followed the rules someone wouldn’t be confusing themselves with MY self-portrait! It’s laughable that someone saw fit to steal a piece of “art” when it’s so awful.

The story of b: Not much story here, but this work received an A+ from a professor that I still have the utmost respect for. Last year some of the line art was used for fashion show place cards and I received a lot of compliments!

The story of c: I always let out a good belly laugh whenever I see this and I’ve kept it for that very reason. During my senior year the creative director and a few other employees from Just Born candy (the makes of Peeps and Mike & Ike) came to visit our senior portfolio class to give a lecture about the importance of being creative and thinking outside the box. They passed out some copy paper, crayons, and markers and told us to take 5 minutes and sketch an ad that would show how immensely hot “Hot Tamales” candies were. At the time there had recently been a scandal about a crematorium not correctly disposing of human remains and I’m sure that’s why my mind went here. We were all instructed to tape our idea to the white board and return to our seats. When the guys from Just Born looked at my idea they asked “Who did this?” and I raised my hand. The creative director looked directly at me, shook his head, laughed and said “That’s really f”ed up!” I ended up being awarded the prize and became known as the girl who everyone formerly thought was normal, but now was not. To flummox someone who is associated with Peeps is a triumph in my book.

The story of d: Not much story here, but I really enjoyed learning about technical drawing in high school and found that I was really good at it. I saved this because it was a cheat sheet I made with directions about how to make exact geometric shapes. Plus, the boy who sat across from me in this class (while I was working on this very project, no doubt) was always making crude comments and one day I grew so fed up with him that he got a swift kick to the shin underneath the table. No more comments followed!

The story of e: Lovingly titled by my art teacher “The Flaming Strawberry.” It was supposed to be an asteroid that was jutting through the night sky, and yes, those are snakes. This convinced everyone in high school that I wasn’t as normal as I pretended to be. (I got the chance to be normal again in college, but you’ve already heard the ending to that story!)

The story of f, g, and h: These are projects that I thought were good but just didn’t impress my instructors. I got a B- on the drawing of the bottles with an explanation that she was being liberal with giving me that. This woman hated me for some unknown reason and was never impressed or satisfied with anything I did. I was convinced she couldn’t draw anyway so I took everything she said with a grain of salt…or tried to, anyway. It still stings to this day that I spent more than 12 hours trying to perfect this drawing and it still wasn’t good enough. This woman tells me I’m not good enough every time I put the pencil to the paper and start to draw. It’s a taunting song I can’t get out of my head. The other two pieces both got C’s and were accompanied by lots of overlays with red pen clearly marking every.little.darn.thing that I did wrong. I never felt my work was good enough for this professor either. Although he was very nice and tried very hard to help me, I just wasn’t good enough. Everything I turned in was a letdown.

The story of i: I’m not sure why this was in my portfolio…perhaps a reminder that life is short and never take anything for granted? I guess also because it happened during my second year of college which was an incredible mess of a year. The sudden death of a friend is an immense blow to the spirit.

The story of j: I thought I had aced the interview with this company and was convinced that I would be getting a job offer. It was the case of “try back again next year after you’ve had some experience and grown as a designer.” I didn’t try again.

So those are some of the things I encountered while digging through my portfolios. I laughed and I cried, and it felt good to confront some of my demons. I also found some other things that made me really proud and had me beaming. I need to take some time to track down a few very special people that made a huge difference in my life. I didn’t often feel good about myself and I wasn’t often proud of my work without eventually feeling let down, but there are a special few who deserve to be thanked for making a difference in my life. One of these people would be my “CHEI professor.” I need to remember the importance of living my life Creatively, Honestly, Entrepreneurially, and Intellectually.


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