Some of my earliest memories of being happy and content are either riding my little red bicycle—my first bicycle—or laying on the living room floor drawing. I would draw for hours. Mostly cartoons but other things as well.
Pablo Picasso famously said that, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we are grown up.” I’m not sure how true this is for everyone but it is for me, at least consciously. What I mean by this is that I have practiced art in many forms throughout my life but it is when I acknowledge it that I feel most alive.
I’m not sure what prompted me to purchase my first camera. It was in 1982 and the camera was a Canon AE-1, which I still have. It was so exciting figuring out how it worked (this of course was before YouTube tutorials), and I carried it most places capturing moments in time. It was with me on my first trip to NYC, Europe, and New Orleans. Unfortunately most of those images are lost to time, probably during house moves at some point. But still I have the memories.
In high school my major was art and that class was my solace. While other kids looked forward to gym class (a class that I dreaded) I looked forward to art. It felt good to have the teacher compliment my work. The original Facebook “Like” I suppose.
When I briefly moved to Nashville for an internship in the 80s I didn’t initially know anyone and was lonely. So I purchased a pad and pencil and sat on the banks of the Cumberland River and drew. And in it I was safe.
For so many years I worked as a chef, and—because of the incredible hours and workload—it all but forced me to give up other forms of art. Cooking of course is an art, and one that I excelled at. As a cook and later a chef it was always about the art and craft of cooking, rarely the business or money end of it (and this shows today). There were times when I accepted positions in management and it was like fitting a square peg into a round hole. It was impossible and I was an impostor; it was as if I were pretending to be someone I wasn’t.
These day I carry a camera and notebook and pencils (and sometimes watercolors) with me everywhere; never leave the house without them. There is never a wrong time to make art—to record the life around you—be it in words, drawing, photos, etc.
My point is, I suppose, to encourage you to create, no matter what or how. And no matter how “good” you may feel you are or what others say (ignore the nay sayers). Do it for yourself (and others). It may save you. It has for me.
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” —Fr. Thomas Merton