Wednesday, June 11, 2014

I need more glitter

I have always loved art. 

And maybe every little kid does - I know my kids always loved crayons and markers and putting colors to pages. 

But I was sort of obsessed with it. 

One of my mother's very best friends, Ginger, worked in the Gifts department of Halsey & Griffith. If you grew up in West Palm Beach in the 80s, you may have visited this amazing store of delights as a child. It was touted as an office supply store - but it was so much more than that. It was located in a 3 story building in downtown West Palm Beach, the kind of downtown where you had to parallel park on the street and get your parking validated at the store. 

On the first floor was office supplies. To this day I could get lost in an office supply store. All the files and folders and pencils and hard cover notebooks, oh my! Also on the first floor was a gift section, similar to a Hallmark. There were greeting cards and little stuffed animals and trinkets you could purchase and if you asked nicely Ginger would take your purchase into the back and gift wrap it so perfectly in such beautiful paper that you absolutely would feel like it was a shame to tear it open. My mother would spend hours chatting with Ginger while I looked around the store. Perusing the new stuff that came in, looking at the stickers, flipping through the book that held sample wedding invitation templates for brides-to-be to come in and order.  

Halsey & Griffith was seriously a store from another era. 

When I got a bit older and my mother trusted that I could behave myself, she said "Beth, why don't you take the elevator up to the 2nd floor and look around up there."

Second floor? I had never been to the second floor. I knew there was an elevator - I'd seen people get on and off of it before. But I had never gone in it and I had no idea what was on the second floor. I was a pretty brave kid, I guess, because now that I think about it if I told Munchkin to just jump on an elevator and go somewhere she had never ever been before by herself she would absolutely freak out. There's no WAY that kid would go. But me? I happily ran over to the elevator and pressed the button. I had no clue what wonders would await me.

The elevator was old. It smelled funny in there and it was hot. This was probably 1985 and I'm sure that elevator had been in operation for at least 30 years before then. But my mind was preoccupied with the destination rather than the journey. What the hell was going to be on the second floor? I mashed the button with a 2 on it and held my breath.

The elevator struggled to ascend to the 2nd floor and grunted when it stopped. With a cheerful "bing!" the doors opened and I stepped out into a little hallway. To my left was nothing, just a blank wall. I looked to my right and y'all I heard angels singing.

It was my utopia. 

It was a real, honest-to-goodness art supply store. Filled with real, honest-to-goodness art supplies. For real artists. There was no Crayola or Rose Art in here. There were things I had never seen before in my whole little life. Oil pastels and books of paper made just for drawing and painting, canvases, paint brushes, pencils of every shape and size. I had no idea there were so many colors of paint and so many types of paint and so many ways to apply paint. I was delirious with it. 

That day my mother bought me a set of Pentel Oil Pastels and a real artist's sketchbook. I felt so amazing coloring with them - their smooth, rich color applying to every page. I filled every page of that book with colors until my pastels were just little nubs of color and my fingers were coated in a messy rainbow of awesomeness. 

Over the years my parents were great at encouraging me to be creative. They oohed and aahed at every painting of every flower I made in my Georgia O'Keefe stage. They read every piece of poetry I showed them and bought me hard backed composition books and sketch books and soft charcoal pencils and whatever else I felt I had to have to express myself. 

I spent my youth journaling and writing and drawing and painting and coloring. I filled pages and books and volumes with art, whether it be visual or written. I always thought I would grow up to be an real honest-to-goodness artist.

But somewhere along the way I lost all of that. I had kids and had to make money and had to be responsible and I just let it all go. I totally stopped creating.

And somewhere during this time of adulthood I got it into my head that I wasn't any good at art. That I couldn't draw or paint and I just compared myself to people I felt were actual artists and saw that I wasn't as talented.

And then a group of my Besties dragged me to one of those step-by-step painting classes where you bring in a barrel of wine and get tipsy while attempting to copy an instructor in a class of forty other people also getting tipsy. The entire class consist of my friend and I giggling and saying things like "What brush did she say to use?" "What color?" and most recently "My tree looks horrible."

And it was at that first class that I realized that no one else gets to define whether I'm an artist other than me. I realize I'm not up to date on every technique there is to know and I realize my tree only vaguely resembles an actual tree, but I don't care. Art isn't about becoming the next Makovsky - it's about expression.

With that, and as part of The Happiness Project, I started my very own Art Journal. 

And y'all. I'm loving it. It's just for me so I don't feel any pressure. It's not going on a wall somewhere, it's not being compared to anything else, it's just mine. And it's fun. And it's liberating. I love using different media and putting them together and just playing with paints and colors and shiny stuff. I am so happy with it.

I can do whatever I feel like doing with it. I can paint whatever colors, nothing has to look real, nothing has to mean anything, I can just play and smudge and tear and crumple. It is therapeutic for me in the best way possible and I hope I don't ever lose the art journal bug. I highly recommend it. 

PS - I have no idea what was on the 3rd floor of Halsey & Griffith. I never went up there. I can't even imagine what it might have been.