For my day job I work for a large corporation, doing corporate activities that generally involve me “flying a desk”, as I like to describe it. For those of you familiar with the corporate world you can perhaps empathize with the following story: We are in the process of a management-led activity to “improve morale” and increase the level of “teamwork” following a series of layoffs and restructuring, all amid a general atmosphere of continued uncertainty. This activity involves a full day of team building exercises which will include each of us being prepared to share with the group something that inspires us.
I have a naturally skeptical disposition when faced with this sort of activity, having been through initiatives of similar ilk many times over the last 25 years or thereabouts, so I have been facing this week with mixed feelings of boredom and dread, as I don’t want to derail the well-intentioned plan, despite my innate misgivings. In fact, I have been struggling hard for a week to find a relevant example of inspiration without wishing it to be too trite.
Now, fast forward to a completely unrelated activity: the recent tragic early death of a local artist, friend and teacher of my wife. Although I did not know the lady directly I accompanied my wife to her memorial service at the local Quaker Meeting House and was very moved by the deeply heartfelt personal nature of the modest occasion. The memorial allowed for anyone present to speak on any memory or thought about the deceased for as long they wanted and one mourner stood and recited the following poem:
“I am an artist.”
I am an artist.
My definition of art is creating
something with my hands that is an
expression of who I am.
Art is a part of me.
I can’t escape the urge to create,
to get out my feelings in the way
of paper and glue. Or losing myself
behind the lens of my camera.
I am so thankful for my art.
It’s my own personal therapy.
And in the process I am leaving my mark
in the works I create.
I am an artist.
And there is nothing else in the world
I would rather be.
I don’t consider myself to be a spiritual person, having been bathed in secular science all my life, yet as I listened the words struck a chord within me which I think will remain with me for a long time and I felt truly inspired. I truly believe that the unique act of creating art for art’s sake is a wonderful activity; personal yet shareable, challenging yet cathartic, and most importantly mind-expanding.
We should always have this in the back of our mind on this as we peer through our viewfinders and create our masterpiece.
For Mary and Diane
I originally wrote this piece in October 2014, when it inspired me in that moment to go for a contemplative lunchtime walk and to sit under the autumnal trees overhanging a local brook and create the artwork above. I have since returned to this artwork several times and it even hangs at work in a friend’s workspace. It also seems ironic that, some 15 months later, our organization is repeating the same training, so making this post relevant again and, much more tragically, only last night a second artist friend of my wife’s lost her battle with cancer too, re-emphasizing the cyclical nature of the world perhaps.