My family “does art.” That’s a phrase that frequently you will hear me or some other members of my family use. What exactly does that mean, though? Is it tantamount to a diversion or hobby? For some that might be the case; it may just be a fun past time or creative outlet. For my family, though, it’s something entirely different. It’s a lifestyle, and more than that, it’s a form of speech that conveys messages we otherwise would not have known how to express. It somehow is a medium that allows the shy to shine and the silent to shout.
Many people who know me are probably scratching their heads, since to most I don’t seem reserved or quiet. However, like the rest of my family, there are many things I’m not able to express or to put into words. For many years that was a major source of frustration for me that that I would try to assuage with outbursts of anger and rebellion. Through all this, I was an incredibly creative person who saw the world very differently than most do and loved to repurpose things. Sometimes that was good. Sometimes that involved taking apart perfectly good, useful stuff and transforming it into a hunk of junk. In spite of my activity level and many trying qualities, my mom would encourage me that God had given me the ability to see the world differently and to use it as a way to bless others. Then she would add, “...and I pray I live to see that day!”
When I was 15 I decided to try art lessons. My younger sister Elisabeth had already started taking them and was enjoying them immensely! Even though I was sure, like so many other things in life, I would fail and just be a misfit; something inside me had to try. At this point you’re probably expecting me to say that it just clicked and that I knew I was meant to be an artist. That wasn’t the case. My first artwork, (if you can call it that,) was less than impressive. In fact, compared to my sister’s work, some might have said I should just quit. But even with that, I had found something immensely more valuable than nicely executed and rendered artwork. I had found a voice, a place where my odd view of the world fit right in. Art also turned into an excellent form of therapy. When I was frustrated I could grab my pencils and scribble, and amazingly, things would get better.
I did art, enjoying it and the process until I was 18, with each piece improving upon the one before it. At 18 I entered college and decided that now I needed to focus on more important things like school, and my career and life direction. Art would have to be something I did when I had time. Not surprisingly, I never had the time, and the years started to pass by in the pursuit of normal and responsible.
When I was twenty I was working for an Ambulance Company as an EMT. Through some circumstances that I won’t go into, I was fired. This was a very hard and devastating thing for me and sent me spinning into massive depression. Emotionally out of control, I was headed in a bad direction. My mom, a much wiser and cooler headed individual than myself, strongly encouraged me to start working on art. Reluctantly and only to get her off my back, I agreed.
I grabbed a photo of a very skeptical, and some might say angry looking Hispanic boy, and started scribbling. When I say scribbling, that is truly what I was doing, grabbing pencils with barely a regard for color and just laying down wax with a ferocity that would make most artists shudder! However, as I was scribbling something started to change. I started taking more care with my color selection and was more focused and pointed with my rendering. Amazingly, a very cool portrait of a little boy started to emerge from my scribbles. As he emerged from my pencil strokes, a better and more balanced perspective toward life emerged for me, as well. Did my drawing solve my problems? No, it didn’t. I still had many battles to fight and lies to refute. What it did do was give me a safe outlet in which to pour all the hurt, anger and mistrust I was feeling towards myself, the world and God. Art gave me a way to scream things I previously had no way to frame into speech. If you ever see this piece in person, take a closer glance at the skepticism and anger in his face. Those were the exact emotions and feelings that were going through me. Maybe it’s because of the story and our journey together, but this roughly rendered drawing is and will always be one of my favorite pieces.
I hope you understand now that when I say my family “does art,” that little innocuous phrase has so much more meaning than at first glance. Each piece we do has a story and is intricately woven into the tapestry of our lives. Some of the stories we can tell. Some we can’t, but each one is so much more than wax or paint on paper. My family will continue to do art and express ourselves through that medium because that is who we are and what we do. Each of us was created perfectly by a Master Artist who doesn’t make a single mistake with His brush. You may not draw or paint, but each of us has a talent or gift, a way to express ourselves and let our secret voices out. No matter where you may find yourself, no matter what your stage in life may be, dare to find your voice today!
~Caleb L. Macy