How to Become an Artist (Part One)

To become an artist you must first be a child.  When you are an artist child, you might pay attention to and discover things that seem unusual or out of the ordinary or leave adults and peers scratching their chins.  For to be an artist is to be a detective, and who has ever heard of a three year old detective?  

To be an artist. you must also be a feeler.  You notice maybe you feel things in a stronger way than others.  Maybe you just want to know what it feels like to flip your head over and run with your long hair brushing all the leaves in your path.  When you stand up - the leaves were in your hair!  Imagine that!  You want to feel like you are flying when you fly off the swing at its highest point.  You want to feel the crazy momentum in your legs as you run down the hill.  It is absolutely important to know what peeled acorns feel like and if they are suitable for pretend soup. You are an artist, so you also need to feel the weight of the old quilt and the inside of the tree and maybe even the sting of people closest to you who do not understand.

Maybe you grow a little and find that to be an artist you must be a listener.  Because you  find that you also love the way it feels when you are somewhere alone (a 1st grade classroom after lunch, a tree just before you are called to dinner) and the light is so soft and you just listen to it.  You listen to the light.  You also listen to your 1st grade teacher as she reads to you and shows you the wonders of the art in children’s books.  You listen to your beating heart as she hands you the gift of words and art that will sustain you through the toughest times.

To become an artist, you must be willing to observe.  That is where the detective part comes in.  You have to watch everything all the time.  You have to take notes.  You have to assemble all these things you find on your desk, maybe your wall, or just in your dreams while you sleep.  You learn how to make connections and you also learn how to watch people and how their bodies and language tell you things they are not actually saying.  Sometimes the watching and the detective work makes you tired and you don’t mind at all being alone.

To become an artist, you must have a strong desire to be an archeologist.  The quiet bookish kind that makes great life altering discoveries but so gently and quietly and over long periods of time.  (But knowing one day people will marvel at the meticulous care and soft eyes).

To become an artist, you must be willing to be a collector.  You might collect thoughts, songs, words, or leaves, bark, and scraps of handwriting on paper.  Maybe you collect books or string for cross stitching.  All of your collections pile up and bring you comfort.  You quietly build a nest.

To become an artist you must be willing to lie down.  The ground is fine, but a hammock is perfect.  You must be willing to look at clouds and time them as they float by and watch them as they change right before your very eyes.  You must be willing to imagine that they are numbered and assigned to people and that one day you can build a ladder right up to the one with your numbers on it, and maybe you even know the person on the cloud next to you!

To become an artist, you must be willing to love.  As a child, you can love turtles and maybe the watermelons that grow on the vine on the fence where you ride your bike every afternoon.  You love your cat with a heart that feels like it could just burst from your chest.  You wrap her in a blanket and place her in a bassinet in your room.  You love teachers, and neighbors, and one day you are a teenaged child and you love an old jeep and maybe a song that sets you free.  Later, you love a scholar in a library and many deeply good children.

You must be willing to believe EVERYTHING with a child-like heart.  The truth and the lies.  The spirits you cannot see and the messages you can.

To become an artist, you must be a child first.  You must see the world with a child-like heart for that is the heart that is open and willing to do the work you must one day do as an artist.  The work where you excavate your soul like an archeologist - gently and quietly.  The work where you will observe the glorious mysteries like a detective.  Collect the inspiration as it falls like leaves after you’ve raked them and then grabbed them and threw them above your head.  Feel your heart stretch as you remember all the times you loved and it broke you but the artist you are will actually line all the cracks in your heart with gold.  

All of this might leave all of those around you standing and staring and scratching their chins.  And if they do, you’ve done it. 

So smile to yourself and say, “I’ve become an artist.”

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