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Community Green: Listening to a life-long impulse

By Pamela Noel

Special to Plumas News

She is an artist…not in the fine art sense, perfectly trained and educated.  She never attended art classes with the intent of working at art.  Intimidated early in life, by her creative impulse, she would compare her imagined efforts with what she perceived as “real art”…the visit to museums and galleries she enjoyed…friends and relatives who were naturally more gifted.

As a child she spent hours in the back yard, creating fairy gardens and miniature cities, imagining these creatures living and flitting from tree top to mountain top.  Building tiny boats and streams that would carry these little beings from place to place, she

introduced water, so they actually could transport themselves.

Spending hours making designs out of twigs, stones, moss, and leaves, her designs resembled wheels and stained-glass windows in the church she passed by on the way to school.  When visiting the coast with family, she would add sea weed, shells, and sea glass—satisfying her impulse to create.

Walking through her life, the feeling of true artistic lack nagged at her.  Even feeling this lack, she had another feeling of needing to create visually.   Noticing patterns in nature, she wondered how she could massage those patterns into other shapes or take a part of a natural pattern into a new direction.

When presented with the opportunity to enroll in an art class in high school, she backed down—unsure of herself as a person who could create in “public.”.   Instead she stayed in her private creative space, far from the light of other judging eyes; fearing  the judgment that would inevitably (in her mind) come of exposing her work to others.

And, slowly she matured. Though not referring to it as art, she began to tentatively put something on the wall of her college dorm room, expecting that, at the very best, it would be ignored—at the very least—it would be criticized.  But, she was entering a new phase of life where taking chances was what she needed to do…and this was her way to work on her confidence muscle.

Nobody criticized.  More than a few liked what she had assembled and put on the wall.  And they even suggested she do more.  Her inner impulse was being given impetus and confirmation through outward encouragement.

Life continued to give her opportunities to exercise this urge—writing, arrangement of spaces in her home, children, and gardening.  Even her career created new and innovative ways of looking at things, developing more efficient procedures, and different approaches to existing challenges.

At a certain point, after the children were launched, and the “career” had come to a close, a greater stretch of time pushed on another kind of creative desire…to finally come to a place where she confronted her fear of putting something on a canvas, paper or piece of wood, with the express idea of making art.

Still having no real training or instruction, she began anyway, making a decision to forge ahead without any class to guide her.  A pandemic and isolation made that an easier choice.

Not having this training presented certain challenges.  However, she possessed perseverance.  When she painted a canvas or made a collage with which she was not pleased, she just kept working it.  Sometimes it meant taking white paint, and going over it, starting over.  Other times, it just meant adding paper to a picture, until she found something that seemed to satisfy her.  Adding another layer often gave more texture and interest to her work.

When relaying this journey to me, she said that never giving up was what allowed her to be where she is today.  But more importantly, she said that taking clues from impulses that travel with you from the early stages of life, is crucial. Recognizing what delighted her as a child, still delights her as a mature person.  This thread of recognition…and acting upon it,  has made all the difference.

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