I got a bag of art handed to me from a passing car. The car slowed down just enough for a physical distance exchange. It was a prize I’d won in a raffle to raise money for a West End pottery studio: Mud Makers Studio is trying to keep their shuttered shop alive through the pandemic.
I can’t tell you what a delight it was to receive a brown paper bag containing art!! The things in that bag are magic creations made by the hands of artists who obviously delighted in shaping, glazing and firing the clay. And there were some bright and beautiful prints on paper too.
The very next day, while I still revelled in the good feelings from the objets d’art, a book arrived in the snail mail. It’s a book of still life scenes by Toronto artist Anna May Henry. Called “Make a Living”, every page presents a dreamscape of images and text that explore the phenomenon of the have and the have nots. One of my favourite works involves a box of chocolates; no spoilers here.
I love art made by people who’ve put their heart and soul into it. In fact, that is part of my definition of art. There are those who make nice shapes or colours on canvas or who add nifty words to clever sentences but until there’s heart and soul, it’s only words and paint. Heart and soul is also why I like children’s art so much – theirs, of course, is a more innocent variety.
What I see in any adult artist I admire is that they’ve studied and worked at their medium: played at and cried over it, broke their hearts and busted their bank accounts for it, given it up but come back to it time and again. In other words, they’ve invested their souls and laid bare their hearts for the sake of art.
It’s that same constant practice and learning that makes me an artist. At times when I’ve not been able to study and create, I’ve lost the whole sense of it. I’m fortunate that it always returns. But I think that for some people, unable to continue exploring their creative impulses, the joy of creation leaves them forever. And that could explain a lot of twisted behaviour: bitter battles waged over petty grievances or family members cut off due to self-righteous trifles: people who probably knew art once (maybe only in childhood) and then it was taken from them or they threw it away, never to return.
For me, it always comes back – maybe in the mail in a slender brown envelope or out of a car window in a brown paper bag – or if I’m lucky, in the form of my own work. Art is salvation, art is love, art is essential. Support your local artists; they’re essential.
Print from the art bag, signed WL
Small dish from the art bag, signed VV
Making A Living by Anna May Henry
Little bowl from the art bag, signed: VV.