Thursday, March 26, 2015

Jeez, Louise--Thank you!

My art students at Beechwood Elementary w/ "Fiber Stories"

Thinking back on my now 20+ years as an artist, I recently realized I have one key woman to thank--Louise Silk!  Louise was my first formal art teacher, and though I hardly think she would had considered herself one--a true art mentor. Before her influence, not only did I not know I was an artist, but I didn't even realize what the possibilities of being an artist or having an art career were. Since early 90's when I took my first class at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, I have never looked back, and have built a nice reputation for myself in the arts world. I have been on several arts boards of directors, been archived as an historic African American quilter in Western, PA through the Senator, John Heinz History Center, been selected as a rostered teaching artist at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, acted as art curator for a local developer, helped several senior Centers create art for their common areas, and won an award from the Pittsburgh Arts Council for business and arts collaborations. I'm also the founder of the Geek Art/Green Innovator's Festival which has supported and showcased more than 300 artists of various mediums in 6 years as part of the "Unblurred" art crawl on Penn Avenue.

But I digress, back to Louise, without whom I would have never made my first artist venture. I can still recall my first fiber art class and being torn by which fabrics to choose. I was utterly frustrated. Everyone around me seemed so confident with their materials. I whined, "Louise, it all looks so wrong!" And she replied, "That you are scared is a good thing. It probably means it's all perfectly fine."

My first art teacher/mentor, Louise Silk
My jaw dropped. Perfectly fine? She was rightIt was. I completed the project with no further angst or whining. After that, I began to hang out in her studio and sit comatose in a chair so as not to disturb her mastery. She even managed to ignore that I eyed her every movement like a dim witted student looking through a microscope in awe of the wonders of science. What colors work with what? How does one decide how to start a project or decide how its going to look? When is enough enough. How do you work with a client? How should an art studio be set up for you? How do you talk to your family when they think they should get your art for free?

It took years before I truly understood that the journey of discovery was just as important to being artist as the final product. And that I should enjoy that journey every day of my artistic life. So everytime I create with abandon, think outside the box, color outside the lines or dive in a dumpster, I thank Louise. Ahhhhhh, the joys of an artful life!