Coming full circle?

17 02 2010

My friend Cam just finished a painting class with Joseph Melancon at the Art Center of Sarasota. Like me, Cam makes her living as a graphic designer, too. While she has dabbled in acrylic painting just a bit in the past few years, I think her work is really evolving and she is definitely growing as a painter! I photographed this recent painting in her home in Siesta Key a few weeks ago. You can view the work of her instructor, Joseph Melancon, here. She is now enrolled in an abstract painting course at the Art Center of Sarasota.

Kudos, Cam—I do hope you keep at it. I remember being completely absorbed in the process back in my teen years. That’s why I chose to major in art in college. I couldn’t imagine making a living doing anything not creative.

I remember my very sage father asking me, “how will you make a living with your painting?” He was not trying to discourage me; both my parents have been incredibly supportive of all my creative endeavors. I replied, “why, I’ll sell my paintings, of course.” He then asked, “what if no one buys your paintings?” Huh? That one certainly stumped me. I hadn’t imagined that I might not be able to sell my work! It had nothing to do with talent or lack thereof—it was a practical monetary issue. That’s where fantasy and reality collided.

Then I discovered graphic design. Ah…so here was a potential career where you could actually make art, get paid, and not be the quintessential “starving artist.” It made complete sense, so I enrolled in the “Commercial Art” program at Pan American University (now University of Texas Pan American). While I still painted and sketched, I was more focused on a career where I could actually make a living (practically guaranteed). Hey, Sonya and Mary—remember hand-lettering “Make Your Rum Ron Rico” in design class? Yes, hand-lettering. Rapidograph pens, ink and bristol board. Remember waxers, amberlith, rubylith, and sticky registration dots? Jeez, I feel old just typing this. Remember our instructor (Phillip somebody-or-the-other)? He was always working on his own freelance projects, with an exacto knife in one hand and a cigarette in the other, when he was supposed to be teaching us. That should have been a clue to us—here he was teaching and freelancing just to pay the bills. And he was old…why, he was at least 45! Bald on top with gray fringe around the ears. Still having to work two jobs. How did we not question that set-up and run screaming to the career counselor to change our majors? I want a refund!

Fast forward…all these years after, I’m still a graphic designer…and not entirely unhappy with my chosen profession…but somehow both Cam and I are back at the “what if we could paint (or craft or photograph or something else creative) and sell our results to make a living?” mode. We both daydream about that possibility. Life, full circle, perhaps—back to our roots—if only in our imaginations at the moment. Makes me want to drop everything (not possible) and start painting again. I certainly have the arsenal of supplies with which to do so…sigh…some day. But today? Today a newsletter, trade show banner and business card design beckon. Back to the (electronic) drawing board.