Thursday, November 10, 2016

Ars Longa Vita Brevis

“Art is long, life is short.” Words that resonate down the millennia. And life was indeed short back then, but how many incredible works of art survive! A trip to the museum is cause to marvel at the talent of our forebears, dating so far back. Carved in stone, drawn on cave walls. Every artist, from tragic Vincent Van Gogh’s disturbing landscapes to the soaring joy of Calder’s mobiles, made his or her mark, and their masterful creations live on.

When I was little I had no qualms about drawing whatsoever. I exulted in cracking open a new box of 64 Crayolas, and wore each crayon to a nub. It never occurred to me that I was not a gifted artist—indeed, it did not occur to me that being “good” was important. I just yearned to express myself on paper, and my output was impressive if not high quality. The few pictures that survived my childhood attest to my preferred subject matter (super religious) and my attention to detail. At some point in the middle grades, my art came to a halt, and with a few exceptions I have not created a painting or drawing since.

The same was true for my kids. Everyone started out creating like crazy (Sheridan holds the world record for most sketches of a lighthouse, all crafted during naptime—I didn’t care if they slept, I just needed an hour of peace and quiet). But then came maturity, and self-consciousness. Suddenly they stopped attacking blank paper with markers, and my collection of their masterworks abruptly ceased.

What happens when we become hesitant, when we start comparing ourselves to others? For most of us, it means we stop making art, period. Classmates who have what is widely recognized as talent keep moving forward. The rest of us relegate our creations to the trash, and move ahead with our non-artistic lives.

But what if we kept at it?

We can’t all be like my sister C, a professional artist whose creations are truly beautiful. But we can keep tapping in to our right brain, and rejoice in what we produce. Our results may never hang at the Met, but who cares? We do art for ourselves, and for future generations who may treasure what we put down. Or not.

Ars longa, vita brevis. Open a box of crayons and connect to your inner genius. I promise it will be a worthwhile exercise. Someday, an archeologist may discover my child’s soaring portrait of of a Ninja Turtle ballerina, and gain insight into the 1980’s culture. In any event, I will be the Mom who keeps it, and holds it close.

I challenge you to search your keepsake boxes and look at your childish artworks. I guarantee you they will be wonderful in your eyes. And after all, we none of us know how we will be remembered many years from now. So why not sketch a love song to the future? No time like the present. Truly.

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