When I was in high school, other kids in my studio class senior year were going on to art school. I remember the signs up for portfolio days with the big schools—Pratt, Cooper Union, Chicago, RISD. “You should go,” my art teacher pressed. But when I thought about being an artist as a profession it seemed scary and somewhat irresponsible; after all, all you ever heard about were unsuccessful artists. I also didn’t think I was “weird enough” to be an artist. Well, twenty years later I find myself an artist, and I know I’m not normal enough to be otherwise. As much as I fought it, I eventually succumbed and fully embraced being one.
The truth about artists is… we are often a little different. And well sometimes artist are kind of intense. While I like to think of it in a good way, I know it’s not necessarily typical. We get easily captivated by colors or images or textures or sounds. As a grown adult I am often easily amused by things that sparkle and glow, a trait not unlike that of children, and small animals. My brain logic doesn’t always follow a normal path. It tends to be frenetic stream of conscious. Or I can take an idea and pull it in a hundred different directions. I feast on images and sensory experiences and thoughts (this is how I love to justify great food and music—essential artist fuel). Words and thoughts bounce around in my head incessantly. In fact, it is well known joke that the L Graff brain has no off switch.
Sometimes I laugh at my husband and say, “Sorry, honey, I know this wasn’t actually what you signed up for… having the crazy artist wife.” My husband is a mechanical engineer so he is a creative in his own rite, but in a much tighter, technical way. At the time he married me I had disclosed my past dabbling and relatively serious forays into art, but I think he thought I’d stay the course of my graduate degree. However, the sad truth is, once an artist, always an artist. Little did he know that thirteen years into marriage he’d be living amidst hundreds of half-done paintings and two studios. He probably didn’t imagine the music playing till 2 am as I finish up a piece, having to find intelligent critiques for pieces, and being constantly asked for opinions— “Should I paint this pose or this pose?”—or having to double as my shipping lackey.
Still, he humors my art conversations with other friends, and the way I can be aghast at a combination of lines, or enamored with an image to the point of near obsession, or talk for 5 minutes about how much I am in love with my jar of maimeri polycolor navy acrylic (the richest, most, intense deep blue paint ever—don’t get me started). He has come to enjoy museums and galleries, although I know not quite to the same degree as I do.
It doesn’t stop there, though. I am known for keeping my camera on my lap during the nine-hour drives from our house to my parents’ because I might need a picture of that power line on the New Jersey turnpike for a painting, and I jot scribbly notes in sketchbooks, which always travel with me. He is patient with the chaos of creativity; on many occasions he’s found our kitchen turned upside down to make golden 3D sarcophagus cakes for a son’s birthday, or our house turned into a floral design room to prep someone’s wedding flowers, or the dining room table littered with thirty scrub hats being sewn for an upcoming medical mission. And I don’t tend to confine the creativeness to myself. There are endless parades of friends, children, and neighbors through the house as I suck them into my web of crazy creative projects and try to turn them all. I will admit to flat out brainwashing them with creative talk and bright colors.
Someone once asked if it was hard for me to be LDS and an artist. My answer was no, not really, it’s much harder just to be a responsible citizen or a mother and an artist. Because at times being “creative” doesn’t fit so well with the schedules and routines and responsibilities of normal life. Still, I have to say I love being an artist. I love to think like an artist. I love the joy of creating. So can I convert you?
Are you a “crazy artist,” or are you married to one? Have you learned to peacefully coexist with creative craziness in yourself or others, have you embraced it, or is it still lurking covertly? And if you have any favorite creative stories, do share!