The Story of Purple Trees

When I was small, like most children, I loved to color. My generous parents gave me the 64-color box of crayons, but the Magenta crayon was worn to a nub before many of the others were even used. One day I colored the trees in my coloring book page a glorious Magenta. I colored with joy and exuberance. When I proudly showed my picture to my well-meaning mother, she gently tried to correct me. I should color within the lines nice and neat. Trees are green so I shouldn’t color them purple. She believed, as many do, that art must be representational and there is a correct way of doing it. Now I know that traditional representation isn’t everyone’s form of expression. However, what I took away from the conversation that day was that my expression was wrong and unacceptable. This made me sad and I didn’t want to color any more. Coloring had become a chore not an expression of joy.

Fast forward to when I was 18, and considering a career, I wanted to be an illustrator. I always got straight A’s in art class without really trying. I was good and I enjoyed it. My practical and well-intentioned father, knowing he wasn’t long for this world, wanted to be sure I was set on a good path. He discouraged my pursuit of an art career because it would be an unreliable source of income. He pushed me towards computers because “someday everything will be computerized if you get in on the ground floor you’ll be set.” I argued how much I needed to do art and was told “Someday art will be done on computers, in the meantime do art as a hobby but get a real job.” His computer predictions were eerily accurate (made in a time when a computer filled a room and punch cards were used to enter data. Most people couldn’t imagine such a world was possible, but he was certain of his vision, and rightly so.)

Anyway, I couldn’t do computers; my brain isn’t wired that way. So, I had a string of “whatever I could get” jobs but I always managed to find an artistic outlet in them. When I was a waitress, I was asked to design, illustrate, and hand letter the wine list. I created posters for local companies. I worked retail and ended up doing all the signs and displays. You get the idea.

I did art as a hobby and invested more and more in it every year. Eventually, I set up an easel in a corner of my dining room and taught myself how to paint acrylic still life. I then moved back into my family home to care for my elderly mother, who had been very supportive of my art for many years by now. The biggest bedroom in our house became my studio (my first and still my largest). She encouraged me to paint murals on the walls. When she slept in the afternoon I painted. When Mother passed, I had an art therapist to help me manage my profound grief. Through those sessions I began to learn the real power and purpose of art. Rather than trying to be a human camera I was expressing what I felt and who I was. I tried to continue this after therapy ended, because it was so freeing. Still the old hard wiring was holding me back. Outside of therapy my authentic artistic expression still felt wrong, not good enough. I still didn’t believe I could be a professional artist, even though that burning need had never dimmed.

Please don’t think harshly of my parents. They were wonderful and loving people who were doing what they thought was best for me, as they always did. Please don’t feel sorry for me, I don’t. This is just what happened in my case. I’m hardly alone. So many artists of all ages have been raised to believe art is not a career choice or that there is only one correct way to do things. This simply isn’t true. We can color outside the lines and find our exuberant joy in creating again. It’s our responsibility to free our imaginations and clear the cobwebs.

I’ve reached a now-or-never point in my life. I’ve quit my ‘day job’ with the intention of pursuing my art. The reality is I do need to find a part time job till things take off. That’s OK because it is in service of my art, now, not in opposition to it. I’m attending workshops. I have a mentor. I’m creating what feels good to me. Many of the finished paintings are not professional quality yet, but I’m learning with every effort and the good ones are getting better every time.

This blog picks up my story from here. I’m defying my hard wiring and learning to support my soul wiring. I’m daring to color outside the lines and invite you to join me on my journey.

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