Stealing Grapes


          The other day I heard a want-to-be artist say "I took his course and learned not a thing." I couldn't help but ask what was it he expected from his teacher. "I want to be an artist and I want him to teach me what to do." was his answer.
          You can be taught how to mix colors, how to use a brush, what papers work best, what colors Sargent used, how your favorite artist approached a canvas. None of these will make you an artist, they will teach you how to make a painting, even make one that looks like a Zorn. To make an artist you have to have life's experience, and be willing to share it with others. You also need to recognize that you have a voice of your own. 
          Took me a while to find my own voice, takes most artists a while to find their own voice. I can name three artists who taught me how to paint and how to put a picture together. Being an artist took a lot more than that. My brother Francis taught me how to see the world with a pure heart. Being mentally handicap he saw the good in everyone - where I preferred to kick the crap out of the bad kids or get the crap kicked out of me trying to correct their ways. 
          Trick-or-Treating, they made us sing for our treat. Another experience that adds to my art was stealing grapes... which was not acceptable and that act gave me time to think and draw instead of play. Mom liked us kids to think after we did things like stealing grapes. Having a crush on a girl who thought I had coodies was just more color to add to my palette. Having a neighbor scream from her window "Jack hung himself"; knowing a boy who drown himself because being gay wasn't accepted when I was a kid. These are things that stay with you. 
         I really believe all life's experiences flavor our art. The more we look inward the clearer we see the world around us. Francis's smile is there for me when things look dark. I like to think of my art as his smile. I believe an artist learns the basics from other artists, and then sets about finding his or her voice.