I am taking an online class in Creative Lettering. I spend hours on You Tube watching clever creative DIY types demonstrate techniques and ideas to hand letter in my OWN style. Illuminating letters. Negative Illumination. Chalk Lettering. Lettering in ink, acrylic paint, and digitally. Filigrees. Florals. Swoops and Flourishes.
Then it is time to practice. My mind skips a beat. An old tune emerges. Remember when? Eleven years ago to be exact, when I needed illustrations to complete the Garden Pages. My Garden Pages. With watercolor images of the treasures of the garden painted to perfection by my own hand.
Of epic proportions.
I can describe my garden to you. I can feel my garden living here in my heart. I know each and every one of my garden pals, including the pests, by name. I speak their language. We coexist, side by side. I nurture them, they feed my soul.
I could be kind to myself and describe my watercolor renderings as impressionistic or abstract. However, as I must be honest with you if I am to be honest with myself, my painting is worse than a three year old’s crayon drawing. Ask any three year old to describe their painting, and after a moment, you can see the gist of their early efforts. The yellow blob is the sun. The streak of blue is the sky.
If I explained my painting to you...you would listen thoughtfully...then say to yourself...
Blobs. Streaks. Shapeless forms. What is this???
Thus, I resorted to photography and playfulness.
So why? Why now am I walking down the same path with lettering?
It will not end well.
So there you have my history.
Now you need to understand my hysteria.
I have beautiful handwriting. I learned by rote. The Palmer Method. Practice pages of loops and swirls and slants and finishes. Flourishes and filigrees. I have been down this road before. So why am I stuck. Why are my hands shaking when I attempt to practice? Okay okay so my hands are not what they used to be, and I am not as steady as I once was, but that is not the issue. Few people these days write free hand. Some cannot even legibly sign their own name. The last time I signed my name at the grocery store using my finger, my signature looked like that of someone with a serious mental disorder.
I know what’s wrong. I recognize the problem at hand. I’m just being cautious before launching into the basis of my fear.
Perfectly straight unbending start stop lines.
Straight up and straight down unbending unforgiving hard immovable lines.
Outside, Mother Nature draws from her palette of colors, shades and hues of rambling, rotating, flourishing strokes. Hills and valleys, snaking streams, trickling dribbles of rain falling randomly onto the raised branches of trees. Trees with their branches raised and not a straight line to be seen. Blades of grass bending under a whiff of a breeze. Petals dancing, not marching in the air. Even the leaves flutter to a rhythm of a song, one leaning north while all the others lean south.
The only straight lines I see, are the ones made by man. The roof lines. The gate posts, the fence line. The squared window panes and the rectangular doorways. The solid brick pavers and the concrete slabs.
How did we get here?
To linear thinking.
It is a sad and scary place to be.
Rigid. Upright. Uptight.
Toeing the line. Tiptoeing every step.
A line that now separates you and me.
You from me. Me from you.
Are we all truly that straitlaced? So straight faced?
One dimensional pen and ink drawings?
I echo the sentiments of the little fish in the Dr. Seuss book, The Cat In the Hat.
“Oh I do not like it. Not one little bit.”
Rather, I prefer my writing to be free hand.
My thinking Non-Linear.
I want to be like the garden before me. Three dimensional and willing to change to adapt and to grow.
I know I am willing. Both historically and hysterically true.
I think of life as one gigantic family dinner. A gaggle of those who eat peas, and those who abhor anything green. So we make carrots too. We learn to eat cold food because some are tardy to the table and some arrive on the dot.
I believe this is why the microwave was invented.
We expect one generation to clash with another, because that is how human history works. Mothers and Fathers are always stupid until their children become Mothers and Fathers. Our life experiences are not the same, so why would we expect our perspectives to align in a straight line. Where is the fun in that?
Once upon a time, believe it or not, it was okay to disagree. Once upon a time, it was not a surprise when we found common ground. Once upon a time, we had conversations that did not automatically dissolve into confrontations. Once upon a time, we took the time to get to know one another, and to accept that our differences were not worth our separation from one another.
Once upon a time, as we celebrated our differences, we discovered our shared similarities. It should come as no surprise, that it was our similarities that drew us closer. Hunger, pain, worry, illness, as well as joy, happiness, laughter and delight touch us all, and when shared make traversing this life together rather remarkable.
I was a teacher. I taught daily that no question is ever stupid. The idea of not questioning is a mistake.
Not a straight line to be found in a question mark.
There is one dangling over my head right here, right now.
A question mark is a symbol of wonder.
The precursor to Creativity.
I’ve learned my lesson. I am not a painter.
I am however, when given a free hand to be myself,
not so bad.
I really am a nice person.
I will never paint your portrait.
Just one word of caution.
ALL of our lives end in a straight line.
In the meantime,
wiggle, squiggle and doodle
every single minute.
Even if you aren’t very good at it.
With practice you'll get better.