Drawing from the heart.
It’s a phrase I learned at a young age I believe started by my 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Brown. She had passed out to the class blank sheets of paper, some colored, some white, and instructed us to draw whatever we wanted. As I stared at that white paper my thoughts and my imagination became just as blank. Mrs. Brown came up and asked me, “Why haven’t you drawn anything?” I replied, “I don’t know what to draw.” She replied, “Oh that’s easy, just draw from your heart whatever you want.”
Yeah that made no sense.
So instead I drew what I could see. I drew pictures of my classmates sitting in front of me. I drew the door to the classroom. I drew the chalkboard in front of the room. And even though the drawing began to represent those objects, I never felt like an artist because I couldn’t draw from my imagination. I felt like a fraud.
I had the hardest time understanding what “drawing from the heart” meant for a long time. Past through the teenage years, through college, even up until recently it’s been very difficult for me to connect mind and heart to anything in my life. I have such internal struggles anytime I attempt to be creative or to try to use my imagination. If I had known then what I know now, I’m pretty sure art school would’ve been a very different experience. I know now there exists a disconnect that has kept those two halves, mind and heart, away from each other. Two sides fighting each other in order to establish their own right as sole owner of my motivations. An obstacle that has made is almost impossible to display any true, feeling-based creativity, that which exists beyond surface level.
But through different experiences and trials I can say I finally have access to the heart. I found that part of myself that can feel emotions deeply. I’ve been able to create abstract paintings and sketch from my imagination. And guess what?
It’s filled with pain.
All this time I thought if only I could draw from the heart, how beautiful my pieces would be! But is this the real journey I am on, trying to find beauty in pain? How do I do that? How can I take all that I’ve experienced in life and bring that to the surface, to represent me? Is art just a way for me to express my emotions and my pain or is it a way to mirror your own? Each artist around you, well the good ones, they are ripping their heart out and throwing it on paper or a canvas for the public to see, making themselves vulnerable to criticism, to rejection. And I believe it’s truly because as artists, if we don’t create then we die.
Art is in our veins, in our blood. It manifests itself in our personalities, our mannerisms, in our choice of what we put on in the morning, and in who we surround ourselves with. I feel like my identity as a true artist happened when I painted my first abstract picture, about 2 years ago.
So okay, then if this is the way to become a better artist, so be it.
Bring on the pain.
So my friends have returned back to their land of scotch whiskey and tartans. We had so much fun spending time together the whole month they were here! One of the days was spent taking a ferry from Vallejo to SF. If you love the ocean like I do, do yourself a favor and spend a day experiencing this. To be on the ocean and to soak up the sun was incredibly calming and peaceful. I only regret I hadn’t done it sooner.
For a couple hours I was popping in and out of the stores avoiding the mass-produced keychains, buttons, and t-shirts with “I ❤ San Francisco” on it. Of course I always look for my name on the personalized key chains (still nothing for Nichelle) and try not to cringe anytime I see the all too familiar phrase, “I left my ❤ in San Francisco.” I picked up one of those coffee mugs with an illustration of the Golden Gate Bridge and I wonder, did Tony Bennett really understand how much his song would promote SF to the rest of the world? In reality Tony probably knew as much as Prince did, when he himself produced the song “1999”. To this day I cannot listen to “1999” anymore because of the sheer amount of times it was played around 1998/1999. If someone ever tells me we need to party like it’s 1999..
I might just shiv em.
I didn’t expect it while I held that mug in my hand, but it made me realize there is a world out there that is much greater than the world I have built around me. I look up and suddenly I’m aware of all the different couples picking up the “I ❤ San Francisco” t-shirt excitedly looking for their size, speaking in rapid Korean or searching out for their name on a key chain asking in German their friends’ opinion. It’s important to play tourist every once in awhile because it helps you to get out of your head, to avoid your struggles for a moment. It reminds you of all the cultures that you can experience, the museums you can peruse, and the landscapes to gain inspiration from. It inspires you to travel yourself.
So hopefully one day when I can afford it, I’ll be the one looking for an “I ❤ Shanghai” t-shirt in my size and excitedly finding mugs with the the Eiffel tower on them. And instead of pretending to be a tourist, I’ll actually be one.
But no matter where I am, or who I am with, or what I am looking at, I know I will never be able to find my name on a key chain.
Cause there are some things in life that just don’t change.