Have I ever told you the story of how I became a painter?
I like to think about it sometimes, and replay the events in my head. Not to be corny, but remembering my artistic roots always helps me to keep in mind that, well, potential is everywhere. And that we’re far more limited by our lack of experiences than by our lack of abilities.
And that it helps to have a boyfriend who’s really good at picking out gifts.
I’ve always had an artsy thing going on. When I was little, I’d spend hours with my colored pencils copying pictures out of my Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Then I’d move on to organizing my enormous collection of pogs (remember those?) by color and pattern. And if I still had time before bed, I might illustrate a short story I’d written at school.
Throughout high school, I took some fun art classes where I tried projects in calligraphy, pastels, collage, colored pencils, and clay, but I never considered myself an artist. Probably because every project came with step by step instructions and a teacher’s critiquing eye.
Then, once I hit college, I put away my artistic side. Heck, I was way too busy studying English and romance languages, psychology and astrophysics, boys and beer. So by the day I graduated, I pretty much saw art as a fun hobby that had entertained me when I was growing up, kinda like jump rope or collecting stickers.
One Christmas, about a year and a half after leaving college, my boyfriend bought me a set of paints and a canvas. He was under the impression that I’d been a painter for years before we’d gotten together. To this day, I have no idea where he got that impression.
But since I didn’t want to disappoint him, I figured I should give it a shot. I put it off for quite a while, hiding the paints under my desk where they wouldn’t make me feel so darn guilty. But finally, after he asked for the third time if I was ever going to use them, I sat down and started my first painting. A portrait of the boy I love.
Strange thing was, I couldn’t rip myself from the canvas until the wee hours of the morning. I sat down to paint after dinner, and before I knew it, it was 3:00 am. I was so happy with the finished piece that I considered walking over to his apartment right then in the middle of the night to unveil it.
I’ve now been painting for four years. And though it’s taken me years to develop my work (a process that continues!), it only took me one night to discover that painting is just about the grandest thing I can do with an afternoon. That painting is magical. That it’s tremendous, and inspiring, and fun, and meaningful.
And to think it’s all because a set of paints just landed in my lap.
I can’t help but wonder about all the passions and talents we might have that are biding their time, twiddling their thumbs, and waiting patiently to be discovered.