When I was about eight, a teacher told me that art was not my thing. I should find something else to do. Surely I had other talents.
Unfortunately, I listened to her.
Over the years, I produced a lot of crafty projects, but that teacher’s words echoed through the decades, warning me that “art” was off limits. I believed for too long that artists were born, not made.
Then, five years ago, a friend told me about an online art class she was taking. Knowing my propensity to jump in with no idea what I’m doing combined with the fact that I do not like in-person lessons, I decided to give the class a try, even though it was, you know, ART.
It sounds corny, but the day I sat down with a pencil and a few paints and began my journey to create a face that looked halfway human, there was no way I could see how doing so would change my life.
I admit I have an addictive personality. Thankfully, I never got into smoking, drinking, or doing drugs. But when I fall in love with something, I am all in. I can’t sleep because my brain is filled with ideas. I want to do it all day, every day. When I was younger, the passions I sailed through included ukulele, sewing, gift wrapping, singing to Broadway albums, batik, humor writing, and other pursuits best forgotten.
Luckily for me, when I fell in love with painting, I was retired.
I loved everything about these online art classes. I adored that I could access them any hour of the day or night. No one was looking over my shoulder telling me what to do. (I don’t take well to this in art or any other area of life.) I could stop and start the videos as many times as I wanted. I joined a Facebook group for class members and was inspired by everyone’s work. Many like me, were first-timers. Others had been painting for years. It didn’t matter. Everyone was incredibly supportive and I was having the time of my life.
This particular class went for a year with different teachers almost every week. It was not linear, thank goodness. I constantly learned new skills, but I could skip lessons that didn’t interest me. What a concept!
I was doing a lot of painting. Almost every day I turned out something that, surprisingly, I didn’t hate. Much to my amazement, family and friends seemed to like them too (although to be honest, I did think they were just being nice). Giving away my paintings felt terrific, mainly because at this point in my life, I’m trying to get rid of things, not collect more.
Toward the end of that year, I realized I had bestowed what I could on friends and family. But I continued to churn out paintings daily, spending between four to six hours on each.
As I stood staring at the ever-growing pile of paintings, I had a “ta-da” lightbulb moment.
I don’t want a business and I am a fortunate person who doesn’t need any more money. I’m not after fame, nor do I want to hang my “play” (I refuse to call what I do “work”) in galleries. What I wanted—and want—to do is simply to paint.
I also wanted this part of my life to have meaning, to contribute, to count.
So I decided to try to give my paintings away on my Facebook page to the first person to say they wanted them, in exchange for their donation to any non-profit. I had no idea whether my paintings would speak to others, so I was somewhat shocked when, day after day, they did!
Not only did people want them, but “buyers” were deeply grateful. Many wrote me moving notes about what the paintings meant to them and how they were making donations that connected to their lives.
What started out as a way to keep from accumulating paintings turned into a massively fulfilling adventure.
As of November 2018 (the fourth anniversary of this project), “buyers” had donated more than $42,000 to non-profits and individuals in need around the world.
People get paintings they love and connect with.
And I get to paint as much as I want.
I can’t imagine a better way to spend the gift of the years I have been given.
See Lynn’s “play” at facebook.com/lynncolwell. She also maintains an art website at 1-lynn-colwell.pixels.com, where she sells digital art and photography, as well as prints of some original works posted on Facebook.