So each Wednesday, I would arrive at Elizabeth's studio above a great shoe store in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego. My arrival was always early; yes, I was that excited! And occasionally, I will admit to lingering in the shoe store before class. Parking was never an issue. Supplies were not required. I had no clue what each Wednesday held in the way of instruction, or whether I would be the only student (you all know the answer to that).  Elizabeth welcomed me with her great energy, and the studio space was clean, well lit and small and cozy enough not to get lost in thought or distraction.  Sometimes we shared tea. The very first night I painted with acrylics on an enormous piece of butcher block paper taped up on the wall using whatever colors I fancied and whatever brushes called my name.  Big, thick, long, narrow, sparse bristles, short hair.  Enormous has now been defined as about 24"x36". I had no idea where to start on that bright white butcher block staring back at me from the wall (blank pages no longer intimidate me).  Elizabeth gave me prompts to start me on my way and to keep me going if I got stuck. She would ask questions from what she saw that I had painted. Frankly, I had no clue what I was doing, and I really liked it that way. Sessions were liberating and non-judgmental. It was everything I needed, and with a gentle soul to guide me.  

 

During our weekly sessions, we worked with acrylics, pastels, charcoal, colored pencils, collage, water colors, straws, and eventually we got to creating sand trays of my past, present and future.  She asked me about drumming; I passed. Poetry; I passed.  And then one night I picked up the flyer for the class that was hanging around in the studio (since the class was always on offer for anyone to join us).  I noted that it was presented as more about expressive arts therapy than art techniques and media. Cue the light bulb!  I had heard about art therapy mostly as it related to a way to help children express their feelings or traumas.  Art therapy for adults?  Well, I have never been one to avoid a bit of emotional digging, and I had been enjoying myself up to that point.  What I was getting out of the classes was worth the investment, whatever they were called.  Then it dawned on me. Every session we would clean up about 10 minutes before we were to be finished.  At that point, Elizabeth would dig out paper and offer me any writing tool I wanted, and she would pose a question and ask me to respond.  I enjoy writing so this was easy and a wonderful way to finish the class. *aha*

 

Over the course of our time together, and as I reflected on the material I generated in class, I realized that every writing exercise included the words "I had so much fun."  Art had become fun for me. I had no expectation about it. I had no way to judge myself as the only student. I liked what I was doing.  I forgot about work and the stress I had been carrying. The only problem that arose was when Elizabeth said, "I think I have taken you as far as I can." 

 

To be continued...


Serendipity - the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

 

I call myself an artist now. That would have been out of the realm of possibility 10 years ago. And that's the beauty of possibility; things can change if you want them to.  In late 2014 as I was adjusting to my complete retirement from soccer, my life's passion, I knew that I would need something new to fill my world. The new thing would not be as physicallly demanding; it would have to challenge me, and draw me in (no pun intended); and I wanted to have little to no experience with it.

 

I had been working as a paralegal since 1988 and with the same team of legal professionals since 1994. Work-life was routine, busy, stressful, and often found me working into the evenings. At the firm where I was employed, there was a fabulous evening secretary named Maya, who always introduced her arrival with an email to the office and an interesting thought for the day. I enjoyed those emails and her energy and enthusiasm .  (By the way, I have maintained  a file folder full of those Maya-inspirations.) Though I didn't often have need for Maya's services at night, I did get to catch up with her on those odd nights when she ordered and brought my dinner to sustain me through a long night, or when she passed my office on the way to see someone else. We gradually got to know each other and realized we were somewhat kindred spirits.

 

One evening, I shared with Maya an issue of Art Journaling magazine that I had picked up at our local Barnes & Noble, where my husband  and I like to hang out on Friday nights.  It had caught my attention in the magazine rack, and I decided to buy it and peruse it at home. I love sights and sounds and colors. Visually is my way of learning. This magazine was full of treasurers.

 

When Maya returned the magazine to me, I mentioned to her that I was considering art classes to "try something completely new" and that I wasn't quite sure where to go or how to do that. And, serendipitously, Maya said, you might be interested in this thing my friend is doing, and she brought me a flyer for a weekly drop-in type of class on art.

 

I found the offering perfect: a drop-in class would allow me to quit if I didn't like it; a class that involved a group would allow me to hide in the back as was my pattern in life; a class that was $20 per night seemed entirely reasonable.  And, the additional layer of Maya's serendipitous visit, was that the class started the next day, allowing very little chance to back out of my enthusiasm.

 

The instructor and I showed up that first Wednesday night and waited 15" for the rest of the world, none of whom showed up. Not that night, nor for the next year.  There was always the possibility of other students joining us, either through Elizabeth's PR, or my invitations to folks to join me on this little adventure.  What I loved most about the time with Elizabeth on that first night, and all the Wednesdays that followed, is that I crossed the threshhold into her studio with no expectations and no judgment of myself. I was simply curious about art and what I could make of it. I left after every session filled with a sense of play, and more curiosity to fuel me for the next week. I didn't do "art" outside of our sessions but simply looked forward to the path that Elizabeth was showing me.

 

To be continued...