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A Generational Impact

posted Feb 23, 2020, 7:18 PM by Kathleen Peters   [ updated Mar 30, 2020, 1:41 PM ]
I do not have aspirations of becoming one the "greats" in the art world.  I don't make beautiful things for self promotion.  I want my work to enrich the lives of others.  And while I try to be intentional in my work, I also realize I will not witness its impact most of the time.  All I can do is try my hardest to create beautiful things and let them be found by other people later, like little treasures once forgotten.  Often, I do not see the joy on someone's face when they see my work for the first time.  I will not know the peace someone might feel from looking at a piece of my work over their morning coffee.  I might not ever fully understand the comfort one might have from owning something special.  Yet it is my hope my things are enjoyed, and that they have a deep, positive and generational impact.  

As parents, we don't often think about how we change other people and shape the next generation.  More often we think: just put your shoes on!  But how we behave makes a profound difference.  There is a big difference between a gentle, firm reminder to a child and a loss of temper or a fit of rage.  All those little, daily interactions add up to form a powerful force that profoundly effects another human life.  

Art is like that.  We daily interact with art, and all those interactions add up to a powerful force that shapes other people's lives.  My work is just one tiny interaction among many.  But one piece at a time, I can make a difference.  I can offer love.  I can offer wonder.  I can offer an invitation to think outside of "self".  

Twice this month, I have been reminded that I need not be driven by a desire for instant gratification from my work. It is okay, and actually more meaningful, to focus on the long haul. 

Trout Lily


The first time I was reminded of this was when I was working on my most recent painting of a trout lily.  It has been about -20 degF and I was longing for that bright splotch of sunshine you find on the forest floor that affirms winter is finally over.  Over a snack with my kids, I had casually mentioned that I was looking for a poem about trout lilies and I could only find one.  A few days later, I opened my computer and found this written by my eight year old son:

TROUT LILY BAY

At Trout Lily Bay
Where trout lilies grow, 
There is a trout lily
round and plump. 
It shines in the sunshine
And at night. 
When there's a fright
it droops all gloomy and gray.

I had created something and offered it to the world.  And here my son took it, and held it inside him, and pondered it, and savored it, and then responded in kind.  I offered something good from within myself to the world, and it inspired further goodness.  He wrote this as a gift to me.

The second time, resulted from the highest compliment I have ever been paid for my art work.  The compliment came unexpectedly.  It came with so much force I was a bit shocked by it.  It came when I was feeling a little self conscience.  And it came from a third grader.  My son had a friend over, and they were having a mighty dual with Nerf guns.  

Many of you know that I have an internal battle between the disorganized artist and the ever linear engineer.  I wish I were a tidy person, but I'm just not.  In fact, I'm rather a slob.  And if you have ever been to my house, you know that my husband and I interact in much the same way.  We have many, many projects started, half finished and shoved against the wall.  While my creative side comes out mostly in the arts, my husband's creative side shines in house projects.  His craftsmanship is beautiful.  Stunning, in fact.  And he is so patient and persistent at whittling away at them in between parenting and loving me and a day job.  But like all creative people, we have more ideas and dreams than we can ever realize.  

And to top it off, we had three lovely children ... all creative, messy types too.  

Our home is filled with paint, and fabric and power tools, and half finished rooms.  It's filled with sewing machines and thousands of dominos (literally).  There is Japanese paper for paper cuts, and multiple pencil sets for drawing.  There are wooden helicopters the kids have made, and homemade 2x4 rifles fashioned into blow guns for Nerf bullets.  We have craft supplies and building supplies and construction tools and toys, all littered through a home sprinkled with sawdust and plaster.  And our home is from 1900, so there is NO storage space.  

This explains my bedroom.  When I decided to really give oil painting a try a few years ago, it was in the middle of the day and I realized the best lighting was actually where my bed was.  And my bed was in a room that is not quite finished because it is in an addition we put on several years earlier.  But I wasn't in the "cover the studs with sheet rock" mode, I was in the "paint a picture" mode.  And so I just shoved the bed haphazardly into the middle of the room and threw up some shelf brackets I had squirreled in the basement.  A scrap board on top and - vois la - a painting shelf.  It's been there ever since.

Because I did not really know my son's friend very well yet, I was self conscience about the mess all around me.  It was the first time this boy had seen this part of my messy life. But I was feeling a time crunch for an upcoming exhibit.  Rather than cleaning, I chose to paint while they warred.

I was working on the foreground of my Mt. Cardigan painting and I could hear the joyous laughter behind me as they shouted out points for hitting each other with Nerf bullets.  Suddenly I heard an audible gasp and instant silence.    I turned to see Tyson standing in my bedroom doorway.  He wasn't seeing my mess.  He had rapt attention on my painting and he stared at it while he slowly came in for closer look.  Quietly I stepped aside, letting him take it in.  He stood silent for what seemed like forever.  Then there was a barely audible "Wow.  I want to do that!"  

"Would you like to?"

"Yes."  

"Okay then."  

And so, I simply put my brush down, found an old t-shirt for a smock and gave an impromptu art lesson.  The joy and excitement my son and his friend had was palpable.  And a few days later I was sent this glowing picture of Tyson and his finished painting.  There is so much pride and joy exuded here.  


Yes, I hope my art work makes a difference in my community today and tomorrow.  But these two interactions remind me that just like a parent cares for and nurtures a child, so an artist nurtures and cares for their community, one small interaction at a time.  And just as the fruit of good parenting isn't seen instantaneously, so the fruit of an artist may only be seen in years to come.  And that fruit might not be tangible.  It might only remain in the heart of another as a memory or feeling.  My work is to nurture and foster generationally. My work is for the benefit of future humanity.  At this, I am humbled and awed.    



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