Leaving an Outlet Even While Poor

via Why Art Matters, Even in Poverty

I’ll admit, I didn’t take this woman’s path for the last 20 years.  Oh, I allowed myself SOME creative outlets.  But it was more hobby, more “crafting,” than true art – which has always been my love.  It wasn’t until I went back to school to get my web design degree, in the hopes of getting a job that would actually pay me enough to get us OUT of poverty, that I actually began to have that old art itch again after having abandoned it for so long.

Yes, I basically wasted 20+ years of simply practicing my art, because of a snit against my mother AND because of the opinions of my ex (that matched my own, “if I can’t be the best RIGHT NOW, why should I even try?”) I would have been so much better than I am right now.  And perhaps I would be doing traditional media painting, and not just digital.

He didn’t discourage me specifically from art though. He simply repeatedly told me I was a better non-fiction writer than a fiction one.  And he considered my non-fiction writing, such as things like this (or blogging on LiveJournal «private blog there is now deleted» or on Facebook «which was the platform I used before I realized I was writing posts FAR too long for that format») to be formal, pedantic and boring.

Don’t get me wrong, digital media for art is in NO way less difficult than traditional media art.  The difficulty is JUST as hard, and does – particularly if you use a tablet – use traditional drawing skills.  It is just simply another media for use as a way to express yourself.  The difficulty that is DIFFERENT, is finding ways of making a piece of art you’ve made digitally into something that can be sold as an originalTraditional media means there’s only ever ONE piece, unless you do lithography or some other form of art that is repeatable.

For me, I’ve chosen to print out my work, and combine them with appropriate recycled items, so that it is a combination of painting and sculpture.

But, I digress. While the author lives in Appalachia, I learned my ways to pinch every penny, stretch every single object until there is absolutely NOTHING left to stretch, jury-rig what can’t be fixed, and all around make life work even with very little money, from my mother (who was born one of 9 children, on a poor farm in Arkansas), my father and my grandmother (Born in 1910, she would have been 19 at the beginning of the Great Depression, and 29 at the end of it.  She eloped with her husband, bore him 1 son, and lost him to stomach cancer in 1947, when her son was 5.  So, on top of experiencing the economies required by the Depression, plus those enforced on the American people during World War II, she was also a single mother during a horrendously judgemental time of American history, about “single mothers”).

Unfortunately, I also learned Mom’s, Dad’s and Rose’s attitude that you “sacrifice anything and everything for family.” Thank goodness, I did NOT learn Grandma’s martyr complex.  But by the end of my marriage, I could easily have developed that attitude, because I was already filling with misdirected resentment at the Universe for how shitty my life had become.  This time since then has redirected that anger, and my therapist is actually helping me to make strides towards making better choices.  I’m not saying that Grandma Rose was responsible for all the crap she lived through and the limits she lived under.  No, just that the grudges she held turned her sadly into a very bitter, cynical woman.

So, given the cultural attitude about art in general, that artist and musicians who focus their entire energy and their work to creating something are useless, irresponsible, impractical and “wasting their life,” I left art (and writing) to focus on more practical needs.  I was slowly suffocating that creative spark in myself.

That would be why I am now choosing to make this woman a role model for myself.  The ONLY thing I can do at this point is art.  I have nothing else I can do, because of how broken I have become.  I’m still poor.  And I have no confidence that my art will ever “pay off.”  But it is better than sitting at home, staring at a wall, wallowing in depression and anxiety.  Instead, I’m taking those emotions and putting them into my art.  I’m finding healthy expressions for those chaotic emotions, and learning something new about myself from every piece of art I create.

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