Other kids loved art. Finger painting, coloring, sidewalk chalk. It was ok. When I colored, I liked to color hard to get the most vibrant hues. I never understood those kids who drew lightly with their crayons, filling the space between the lines with pale apricot-ty pastels. But that was about the sum total of my opinion on arts and crafts time for kids.
Then, in first grade, I discovered words. Spelling. Vocabulary. And best of all, the art of writing stories. It was a book, The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, that rocked my world. Having been taught to read with the famously boring Dick and Jane readers, I had never understood that storytelling could go where “The Peppers” took me: into an imaginary world not of my own making. The rest of that year, Mrs. Burns, my teacher, was constantly yelling at me to stop reading in class.
I’ve been a talker and a writer ever since.
Which isn’t to say that I’ve never appreciated other art forms. I have always known musicians and artists, even the occasional serious dancer. My brother Jeff has spent his life as an actor, director, playwright and sometime songwriter. I have been deeply moved by various works and mediums. But I have primarily remained a spectator, not a participant (except for a brief but disastrous period in which I took classical guitar lessons in college – I still owe the world an apology for that one!).
And then along came Art Day. While there were many experiences and influences leading up to my foray into the visual arts (namely my siblings Anne and Matt and our dear friend the artistic genius Syndy Ziegenfuss), Art Day seemed to arrive out of the blue. Here’s how it happened — one November a few years ago, my aunt and cousin invited me to an in-home show and sale of their work, and I took my friend Sue with me. I believe there were five women in that show, and their pieces ranged from jewelry and home decor items to truly stunning works of art, such as Stephanie’s bead mosaics and paintings. Over hot cider and cookies, I heard myself say to Steph, “We should get together and spend a day working on stuff. It could be fun.”
Where did that suggestion come from? Like many times in my life, my mouth seemed to open of its own accord, and out came something completely unexpected…surprising even me. Stephanie accepted immediately, as did Sue. Within minutes my aunt, Paula, made it clear she did not intend to be left out of the so-called “fun”. It was only later that Sue and I, probably sipping chai tea in some coffee shop, confessed to thinking the same thought: Holy crap. What did I just get myself into?