For my first attempt, I enthusiastically set up an easel in my room where I could still watch the girls play in the backyard, put Noni down for a nap, and painted a mediocre painting of palm trees. I didn't care that it was mediocre - it felt great just to put paint on the easel. Plus, there's nothing like a seven and five year old to boost your ego about your own art. ("Mom, that is amazing!") But the whole time I felt slightly stressed that Noni would wake up while I was covered in paint. After an hour, I quickly cleaned everything up just as Noni was stirring in her crib. Well, everything except the palate. One palate left on the dresser + one curious nineteen-month-old + one white rug = a giant blue stain on the rug in our room. Not the best way to start your year of reclaiming art. Feeling discouraged, I wondered if maybe this wouldn't work after all.
I just finished reading "A New Earth" by Tolle. (Yes, I love Oprah.) He talks about the three modalities of awakened doing: acceptance (bringing peace to things that you may not enjoy, but need to do), enjoyment, and enthusiasm. He explains that "at the height of creative activity fueled by enthusiasm, there will be enormous intensity and energy behind what you do." I read that and thought, OK, I'm going to give it another try.
That is why I found myself driving around in the dark in a strange neighborhood in Los Feliz on a Monday night, looking for a long dark driveway that would lead to a gate that would lead to a burgundy door. I had found the "meet-up" online - as the meet-up page explained, a woman opens up her studio twice a week, hires a model and invites in any artists who wish to bring their charcoals and $15 for three hours of figure drawing. I parked my car, grabbed my paper and charcoals, and took a deep breath, wondering if I was more frightened of the possibility of a murderer behind the burgundy door or my inability to draw after eight years.
What I found behind the burgundy door was wonderful: a group of artists circled around a model, working away with charcoals, pencils and pastels. The walls in the dusty room were covered with colorful oil paintings and drawings of all sizes. A coffee pot bubbled in the corner and music played softly in the background. I set up my pad of paper and began to draw.
At first I felt awkward, but as time went on I warmed up and started to enjoy myself. The artists around me were amazing. Everyone was either a professional artist or some form of it - a lot of them paying the bills by keeping their day jobs as storyboard artists. It was intimidating at first, but everyone was friendly and down-to-earth and, after asking the artist next to me for some tips, I realize that I should be grateful for an opportunity to learn from them. By the last 25 minute sketch, I found myself fully immersed in my drawing, not worrying about anything around me, but just enjoying the focus and energy I was throwing into my work. I didn't leave with any works of art by a long stretch, but I felt completely satisfied. On my way home, I recognized that I had been indeed fueled by enthusiasm.
It's funny how even the feeling of folding laundry can change if you feel like you have a creative outlet in your life. I will never particularly enjoy laundry, but I think I'm working towards acceptance. And that's a lot easier when I know that twice a month, I'll enter an art studio and have three hours with nothing to do but draw.
(Side note: Only in LA would the model have surgically enhanced, gravity-defying breasts and a pair of Uggs next to her to pull on for cigarette breaks!)