An Artist’s Journey: Looking Backward

Batmobile, ++++P. Crockett Age 6

What exactly is an artist, and what makes him or her “different?” Damned if I know. But I do know this: artistic expression, in whatever form (and these forms can be countless;wherever you are they are all around you) springs from within. It sort of arises, or bubbles out and up, and it really cannot be helped.

But: most especially in a child or one of tender years, the artistic impulse can be hindered, or even mortally wounded as it runs up against dunderheaded authority figures, or hardworking people who consider the pastime “frivolous,” or any number of other such setbacks. Then you have someone on your hands who even years later might feel somehow empty inside, or wonder what’s wrong with them. In general terms, nothing tends to take a greater toll than that which is not expressed. And the problem is not that the art’s not there; the problem remains that it is.

So parents, and friends, and teachers, open your eyes and your heart and get yourself out of the way if you cannot help. For the love of God, realize that this (most especially and above all) is not about you. To the exact contrary, the drawings or poems or photos are the clearest window you will ever have to the uniqueness of this person, for these creations arose from nowhere but within the heart. There are certain fine times to keep your own counsel, and this is one of them.
And if that’s the most you can do, it will have to do.

King of the Road P. Crockett Age 11
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Without going on at great lengths, let me share the story of my Uncle Eddie, and contrast it with mine. Eddie once shared with me, at the family Thanksgiving Table, that when he’d been in first grade the class had been given an assignment of making paper mache masks. He’d had such fun working on his; he had been so very proud of it. Over 50 years later there was still an expression of delight on his face. But not for long. “The faces were supposed to be smiling,” he said. “And I guess mine wasn’t. That teacher gave me such a scolding. It was terrible.”

“I haven’t picked up a paintbrush or anything else since. Though you’d better believe I’ve thought about it…”

                                                      Orpheus and Eurydice, (copied from an illustration) __P. Crockett 5th Grade
In contrast to that very sad and awful tale, I bring up one involving my father, Jerry. He worked very hard for many years as an attorney, and along with my Mom had five kids to handle, and generally had a lot on his plate. But one day when I was very young, he nevertheless had time enough to just take a moment and touch my soul. Just after coming home from work one day, he noticed a full-page pencil drawing I had done left on top of the dining room table. He did sort of a “double take” and stopped and picked it up, and just looked at it for a moment. He then turned to me and said “Paul, this is really good. You really should keep on doing this!”

I cannot tell you how good that felt, or what exact role the event might have played in my development as “one who expresses.” But it felt like a door opening, or a light coming on.

So, if a moral can be drawn from these experiences, it might be that, given a choice, you’d rather act the part of my Father than Uncle Eddie’s teacher, should the time come and that critical moment arrive. At least, think about it. And remember: to be frank (and to me there are few subjects calling for deeper or more relentless clarity than this one): Whatever you think about art does not matter. Again, this is not about you. It’s more about that tender, open, oh so vulnerable heart that, at that singular moment, sits beating in the palm of your hands.

Lift it up, and let it fly. It just might surprise you, one day. Maybe or maybe not, and it might not matter. Something good and precious will have happened no matter what transpires, and that can only help.

                                                                        Unicorn in the Ghetto ___P. Crockett Age 20, at University of Florida
Food for thought.

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