If ritalin had been widely available when I was a kid, I might not have become an artist. Not to say ritalin isn’t a godsend for many people, but when I was growing up, art was my saving grace, so much so that my very young parents — who were, in this respect, wise before their time — sent me to art classes and lessons early on. It was either that or enduring my hyperactivity, rocket-fueled by all the sugar I lived on.
I took drawing classes (for kids) at Brooklyn College when I was about 7, studied painting with someone in our suburban New Jersey neighborhood named Mr. Santana, and even went to an art camp where, instead of a schedule, we were free to wander among eight studios and make whatever we wanted. Mom also took me frequently to art supply stores, the magic kingdom as far as I was concerned. I was privileged as all get-out when it came to immersing myself in the arts full-force.
Although I live mostly as a writer now, when I was young, it was visual arts 24/7, baby, and it was a good life. I never went anywhere without a sketch pad, and navigated all I came to know of the world through making art. It was my first and primary religion, and like with most early belief systems, I eventually strayed from it.
When I was 14, I turned on a dime from drawing all the time to writing all the time, catalyzed by a wrong-headed belief about not being patient or skilled enough to make art, and by my parents’ divorce. The sketch pad morphed into a journal, and the art supplies disintegrated in the closet.
Sometime over the threshold of adulthood, I started making art again, and since then, I’ve cycled through what Natalie calls “another crazy Mom art phase,” but given that I’m a multi-genre writer, why wouldn’t I be a multi-media artist? I dwelled for years at a time in pastel drawing, watercolor painting, mandala-making, collaging, jewelry beading, plus bouts of bookmaking and scarf dyeing.
Blow on me lightly in any art direction, and I usually go there, so it’s no wonder that Danny asking about my mandalas led him, Julie and me to my bedroom during our New Yanukkah party. I got out the big box of all the gel-pen on watercolor paper mandalas, and started going through them with my friends. I was amazed at the colors and shapes, the glistening circles and curves. Although most of these had been done before and during my cancer treatment in the early 2000s, they wake up my love of art.
Yesterday, I got more gel pens and watercolor paper, and today, spread across my lap, I’ll start making concentric circles with the compass, and then color for hours. No thought, no words, and no wonder coming back to the drawing board is pure joy.