I was out yesterday at a craft fair as a patron. I don’t get to do that very often. When I do, I find myself watching people. Probably because that is what you do from the vendor’s chair: people-watch, I mean. There was this elderly lady getting up from the lunch table and her daughter helped her zip up her coat. At that moment I flashed back to my mother helping me zip mine, and me helping my son, and the future became clear that one day I would help my mother in return. It is an overlapping circle. Me to my son, to his child to me, to my grandchildren and great grandchildren…
Brings me to my point, mentorship. At every level of an artist’s life and career, we need help and guidance. Where to buy supplies, how to use them, where to go to sell, how to get funding, how to become more adept, when to try something new. In every stage, we look to others; they also look to us. When we are at shows people ask us questions, and they too are only trying to find their own way. I have talked about sharing my knowledge and how it really hurts no one. It doesn’t matter what I say in that 5 minute conversation, they will never paint like me. Heck, my students don’t paint like me and they are spending two hours with me at a time. I’m not creating my own competition.
I have had mentors over the years, they have taught me so many things. The time my friends have given me has been invaluable. It is a circle, someone to them and they to us beginners. We stand on their shoulders and we lift others up. It is only right that we keep it going. Layer on layer of knowledge building a whirlwind of creativity that raises up through the years and generations, so nothing is lost and we try new things.
There is a woman, alone of generations; the last one. She dives into the ocean collecting strands of mucus from mollusks. She brings them up, dries them, dyes them and weaves them into this impossible fabric that reflects the light in amazing ways. Tradition taught her to only tell her daughters how to do this. She has none left. Her knowledge will die with her and so will the way to make this amazing fabric. Why? What did she have to protect? The island where she lives? The mollusks that she harvests from? The plants she created the dye from?
One of my students sent me a link to an article about an artist who is combining watercolor and pastel. It was a wonderful find; I truly appreciated the link and her thought that I would enjoy reading it. It gives me something else to think about with my medium and it lifts us both up. I see myself standing in the middle of the whirlwind, like a child of innovation. My hair and my spirits lifted in the wind of ideas and magic. The voices of my mentors and intrepid creators asking questions dancing around my head. I am filled with the warmth of it all, in the middle of it all; I am ageless.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the Spokane Art School Artist-in-Residence, and not necessarily to the Spokane Art School.