After a long day at work, with little sleep, the night before, my husband and I had a big decision to make before sundown. Did we want the proposed kidney bean-shaped landscape design in our front yard or not?
The computer rendering provided wasn’t detailed enough to help us decide. We needed something more tangible. So, we pulled every brick, cinder block, oversized sponge, bucket, half-filled sack of dirt, and planter that we could find and created a makeshift border around the oak tree according to the exact specs drafted by the landscape designer.
Our creation looked ridiculous, but it did the job of giving us a much better sense of proportion. Passersby were driving 5mph in front of our house, trying to figure out what we were doing. Neighbors looked very concerned. (I’m sure they had visions of their property values plummeting.) We were too mentally and physically exhausted to explain the rationale behind our temporary junkyard creation.
Moments later, we were spotted by two young boys selling artwork. They make a beeline towards us and our newly constructed landscaping mockup, which looks like something that would have been found on the set of Sandford & Son.
The child artist asked, “Did you make this?” He had a mixed look of wonder and intrigue on his face as he pointed to the odd assortment of items arranged on our lawn.
Caught by surprise, I started fumbling over my words, trying to explain that the wonky junkyard Stonehenge erected in our yard was just to get an idea of the scale and positioning of a proposed design we were thinking of implementing. It is certainly not a garden art installation. Creative vanity (a.k.a. the ego) was the culprit behind my blubbering. I didn’t want these kids to think that this junk pile they mistook for art was the epitome of our creative talent.
Seeing that all this chatter wasn’t making them any sales, the other boy began fanning out the 8.5” x 11” sheets of paper he was carrying. He asked me if I wanted to buy one of the unusual paintings.
Without thinking, I blurted out, “Oh no, we have plenty of art. We’re both artists.”
I shocked myself with my answer because this is not how we describe ourselves or our careers. (I also didn’t feel up to explaining to two 10-year-old boys what it means to be a Creativity & MidLife Transformation Coach, or in my husband’s case, a Senior Creative at a Design/Advertising firm.)
The young artist excitedly inquired, “Oh, do you sketch?”
I tried to think of the shortest, simplest answer that would get me inside the house and into a nice warm bath the fastest. “My husband and I both have degrees in graphic design, but my husband is the one who sketches beautifully.” And now the baton was passed.
“Doubt begins to creep in when we are little. The ‘I’m not good enough’ reel starts forming in our minds and will take hold over time if nobody is there to intervene, course correct, and build us back up.” —Becky Moore
Turning his attention to Jeff, the little artist immediately began asking him if he could teach him some things. Jeff, being more flattered than tired, was happy to engage with him for a while. Meanwhile, his sidekick hit me up (again) for a purchase. I briefly looked through the paintings. They were fun, unexpected, and very well done. The young artist had every reason to be proud, so why hadn’t he signed his work?
When I called him over and asked him about it, his first response was, “Why do people keep asking me that?” I smiled knowingly. Before I could give him an explanation, he followed up with, “It’s not even art. It’s just some spray paint designs that I make.”
Gut punch. My heart sank while a burst of energy that felt like lightning raced up my spine and tingled my scalp. I was instantly laser focused on setting this child straight. Some serious creativity coaching was needed right now. The equivalent of the Bat Signal had been raised.
I got down on his level, looked him straight in the eyes, and said, “This is ABSOLUTELY art! It’s amazing. You created it. It didn’t exist before you. Don’t ever say this is not art. You need to OWN it! There are many famous, super-talented spray paint artists out there. Google it.”
Unfortunately, right at that time, my less than patient dog demanded to be fed. I excused myself and went in. The whole time I kept thinking about this little boy who was brave enough to sell his paintings door-to-door but not courageous enough to sign his work or call himself an artist.
Then I thought of my own discomfort and hesitation in calling myself an artist to this same child moments ago. This was a pivotal moment for both of us. I thought, “This is how it begins for everyone. Doubt begins to creep in when we are little. The ‘I’m not good enough’ reel starts forming in our minds and will take hold over time if nobody is there to intervene, course correct, and build us back up.”
Well, not today! And not on my watch!
I cracked open my wallet to find $0 in cash or coins, and since I was certain these two weren’t accepting plastic, I cracked open my piggy bank. This was a real emergency. The offer presented to me was one painting for $2 or two paintings for $3. I shook out $3 in quarters, grabbed a sharpie, and raced outside, hoping the young artist and his rep would still be there.
Fortunately, they were only one house away, and I was able to call them back. Excited to potentially be making a sale, they raced to my side. I explained, “I want to make a deal with you. I have $3 here, but I only want to purchase one painting. I want to buy something else for my extra dollar. I want to buy your signature.”
My young artist friend’s painting is proudly displayed in my office, surrounded by other framed art that I have purchased over the years.
I held out the black Sharpie. “I want you to sign my painting and every piece of art you create from now on. That’s what I’m buying for my extra dollar. Deal?”
“Deal.” The artist said emphatically and enthusiastically.
After a brief discussion on how and where he should sign his name (as he had just recently learned how to write in cursive), he proudly handed over the signed artwork. I told him to keep the pen since he didn’t have one. Then I sincerely thanked both boys for stopping by. As they walked away, my young artist friend turned back around and said, “Have a nice weekend. Well, I may not see you again, so have a nice life.”
“You, too,” I replied. “Thank you.” My artist’s heart whispered.
This month, look for ways to encourage and support child artists, including the one that resides within you.