Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Starting the Good Work

For some reason, starting new creative things puts my mind into a sort of free-association; a thread of thought I can follow easily and that others may get tangled in. Here goes...

Ten years ago, Mrs. ShellHawk, though a different ShellHawk, was married to someone else who was a sculptor. This person was a sort of antidote to my creativity. (No blame here, after all, I let it happen.) I remember picking up his Sculpey one day and making a cute and fat little wizard that really didn't turn out half bad. I didn't bake it, not realizing I should, and it lived on my bookshelf for two days.

I came home on the third day and glanced at the bookshelf. No wizard. I asked him where it went.

He told me he had used it to fix the leak in the pipe under the sink! That it was the only thing around that could be used!

Mind you, there was an OSH at the end of the street that carried as much plumber's putty as anyone could ever want, for about $1.59 a crack. And he had another full box of Sculpey lying around. But no, it had to be my sculpture. I am ashamed to say that the ShellHawk of those days laid down and took it, in order to keep "harmony" in the household.

Later, after I broke myself out of the situation and had lots of counseling, I realized that the man was so desperately insecure as an artist (and a person) that he had to attack other people's art to make himself feel o.k. I remember a very talented artist friend of mine coming over with his portfolio, and the ex telling me after my friend left that his work was terrible. My friend's work has since been displayed in the offices of the Mayor of Los Angeles. Goes to show, huh?

So here I am, years later, with a supportive, wonderful husband (best one I ever had, heh!) and many, many fun experiences under my belt ( I was going to say, "things under my belt," but I know how your mind works), re-starting my artistic life.

So Monday, I had my first "real" working class in my new medium: clay. I am taking a course at the local community college, for credit, where the teacher has only one demand: NO COFFEE CUPS OR ASHTRAYS! I can respect that. My table-mate is an 18-year-old young man who shows a lot of artistic promise, rather like I did at that age. I find myself having to repress any phrase that starts with "When I was your age..." for fear of spouting about "Uphill. In the snow. Both ways."

After class, I came home, had a spot of lunch, then dove into further cleaning the garage (a long story), but had to stop because I suddenly started to feel dizzy. Turned out some decongestant helped knock it back. I woke up yesterday and
still felt a bit dizzy, so I took it easy until I couldn't take it any more. I dragged my art table into the house, draped everything within a ten foot radius with plastic dropcloths, and started making paper mache pumpkins. I even did one layer of a paper skull, too. (Did you know that applying one layer of newspaper to a one foot tall pumpkin takes you through the first hour of Aliens? I found out that it does.) Even as I found myself thinking how glad I was that I could sit down and make these things, I was also thinking I'd start my 22" pumpkin today.

It's hard to explain to people who live in serious snow/winter country that January always feels like spring to me. Even though it's still cold (for California, that is), and it's our rainy season, the incremental lengthening of days makes me feel a lightening of spirit, a thankfulness to be alive, and grateful that I did the work to have the life that has room for creativity, deep love, and growth.

The birds are pairing up now, in preparation for starting their new broods. The bulbs I planted last autumn are coming up and soon will flower. Even though the roses have been given their yearly hard pruning, little shoots are starting to develop. I feel the same way, as if every little creative idea I have will be born and take wing before I know it, because I finally figured out how to lay the foundations for that to happen.

How do you start that kind of life? It's easy.

You just start.


  1. Wonderful post! I look forward to seeing your new projects.

    But as someone who lives in "serious snow/winter country", I can't even imagine January ever feeling like spring :)

  2. "(Did you know that applying one layer of newspaper to a one foot tall pumpkin takes you through the first hour of Aliens? I found out that it does.)"

    I think food recipes should use this yardstick for the amount of time it takes to prepare a meal.

    Nice post. Most of us (unfortunately) know men/people like that (my father would decreed the same fate to your little clay wizard). Luckily, we eventually outgrow them, and figure out there are better men out there ;)

  3. Hey, Friday,
    Got both comments, but Blogspot decided not to publish it, though I cleared it. Glad you like the hippos!

    Spirit, I just finished my first clay. We'll see...

  4. Hawkgirl, you often remind me that no matter what one may be doing at the moment, regardless of how good or bad he or she may feel, how brave or ashamed, how serious or goofy, we artists are part of a vast fraternity that dares to create for its own sake. The act itself justifies everything always, and the relative complexity of any project can be measured against many time scales; but mainly "Aliens", "Young Frankenstein", and "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly".


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