The interesting thing about inspiration is you don’t normally see it coming. It starts as a little shimmer. Deep in the recesses of your mind. But it doesn’t stay a shimmer. that little silvery flash grows. It pushes hard against you. A steady rap tap tap. Urgent in its request for attention. Something in me stirred when I read the ad online. They were looking for animal models for a graduate figurative drawing class. Hmmmm. I stopped, and reread. I could not set it aside. As the days passed I just assumed they had found other offers. Nearly two months passed. Then out of the blue a late evening call from a curious guy. A quirky mix of academic and art. Interesting. We had a lengthy conversation that woven in and out of context. But it was different, so I let him carry on. But my curiosity got the best of me, and soon I found myself agreeing to bring a horse, and a donkey into lower Manhattan. Truly insane, since most horses do not like closed spaces, and loud noises. Everything we were about to ask of them. I had faith in my instincts. But there was something driving my decision, and it clearly wasn’t reason. Over the next few weeks we prepped for our outing. It was a lot of work, and logistics. As the day grew close I was stressed and worried, but I didn’t panic, and I didn’t back out. It would have been easy to do. At 4:30 the alarm went off and our long day started. We stepped out into the inky cold darkness that was just starting to pale at its edges and got the animals loaded into the trailer. Pulling up in front of the school I was excited. Odd for me, since normally I am anxious and not really content being anywhere but the farm. I stepped through the glass doors onto the honey colored wood floors. The scents of art were everywhere. A hint of paint, and touch of clay all wrapped in that unmistakable smell of creation. It hung on every wall, sat amongst the easels in the corners, and the sculpture stands. It was everywhere. My heart bounded in my chest, not with anxiety, but with joy. It has been 18 years since I walked out the door of art school. It felt like yesterday. I settled the horse and donkey and said hello to the students. They all happily chattered away while setting up. The steady buzz slowly faded as they fell deep into concentration. I watched each of them, their styles so very different. These were graduate students, all very much had their own style. I saw that shimmer. The professor took me for a tour. We wandered through floors of artists, all tucked into their studio spaces. Some deep in thought hunched over a piece, others lazing on the floor together eating lunch. All unique and individual. No one the same, like hundreds of fingerprints. A kaleidoscope of colors, and styles. Large pieces with color, others monochromatic with the strength of technique and composition carrying the weight. Because it is a graduate school in figurative art a large amount of nudes both sculpture and paintings abounded. What was so striking was the talent. I should not have been surprised, this is a very good school (actually started by Andy Warhol). I took it all in, as the quirky professor introduced me to the artists, and pointed out various work. with each corridor, and each little cubby my eyes found another beautiful work to look at. It was really amazing. But what struck me the most was how happy I felt. Not just happy, content. On a very deep soul level. The stronger the smell of paint, and the more works I looked at the more settled I felt. My baseline unhappy state was replaced by the feeling of wonder. I have not felt that in years. A sleeping part of me awoke. Slowly with each hour it grew. I showed one of the students a photo of my work. On a break she returned with a roll of wire, and some wire cutters. It was funny because I thought nothing of it. I sat on the hay bale and made her a small sculpture. My partner took it very different (this student had rubbed her the wrong way right from the start). She took it that this kid was challenging me, sort of a , yeah right, show me. It is funny how we each saw it so different. I was just happy to have my hands occupied. During the tour the professor told me they had a ton of responses, yet mine struck him as genuine, and spoke to him. I can’t really remember my email, but I did say I had been in art school and appreciated the opportunity he was giving the students. That I would have been thrilled. I remember drawing nudes, and gourds (still have that piece).
Art school was an amazing place. Unfortunately it came into my life at the wrong time. My struggles were far too great, and it got lost. The wonder, and the love of art could not hold court with the war that was being waged in my head. It felt so different now, all these years later. I won’t wander into the land of what ifs, or what might have beens. There is no answer there. I can only listen to my heart, an the steady rap tap tap of inspiration as it settles in my core. I did not realize how important it was to me, or how deeply it stirred me. I won’t ignore it. Just as I let my runs settle my mind, I will let the art settle my discontent heart. Nothing may come of it beyond some puttering in the studio. That isn’t important. It is the time spent letting my hands talk, and freeing my soul. The creative process cannot be defined, nor understood, unless you are an artist. It is a wonderous, and sometimes humbling experience. It can be soaring and exciting, other times quiet and thoughtful. from fast slashing strokes broad and colorful to tight inky lines small on the paper. All come from the same place, yet take such different forms. All are from a place none of us can explain, but we can feel and express. Art is an experience like no other. It is a place very special to me, and one I am looking forward to returning to.