I took my first art class from Melanie Jackson in 2002. The only art I had had up to that point might have been in grade school…with a crayon. I never, ever planned to be an artist. Melanie was teaching Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain at the Rec center in Franklin. I happened to see an advertisement in the newspaper for her class and had never heard of Betty Edwards’ book on this subject. At that time in my life, I was battling depression and exacerbations that had been diagnosed as multiple sclerosis. I was over 50 years old, my last child had left home and I was wondering what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
Learning to draw was hard. I often wanted to throw my pencil across the room and tell Melanie I was finished! She called me her recalcitrant student. But there was something in those classes that kept pulling me back in. Part of it was the challenge. “I can do this!” I kept telling myself. Part of it was Melanie’s encouragement and the need to find something I could do outside of cleaning the house and staring in the mirror observing how old age was creeping in. So I stuck with it. Every Monday night for two hours I struggled to draw. Before long it got easier. I began to enjoy what I was doing and enjoy making new friends. A renewed self-confidence developed as I discovered I had more inside me than I thought I did.
Art does so much good for our minds and bodies. I recently read in a mental health study that tapping into your right brain is good for mental and physical health.
“Art helps us to cultivate our curiosity, stay open to our emotions, experience surprise or novelty, think differently about life, embrace ambiguity, engage the senses, feel awe, and more. It may even help heal your soul.” (Panel study by BMC Public Health, Feb 11, 2020)
We are drawn to being creative because it opens up that sense of play we experienced as children. Life is serious business. Allowing ourselves to kick back and remember the pleasure we derived by picking up a crayon and making marks on paper is seriously underrated.
Work and play are words used to describe
the same thing under differing conditions.
Google creativity and mental health and you will discover all sorts of research on the benefits of delving into your right brain and how that can increase your self-confidence, relieve stress, and promote better mental health. Julia Cameron, Betty Edwards, and Steven Pressfield all write about how using your creativity is good for your health….and your soul.
I took Melanie’s class for twelve years. I teased her after a few years that I was paying her to be my friend. But the reality was she helped me see what was buried inside my head, lying dormant, waiting to be released. It was during those years that I gained the courage to write my first children’s book, then another and another, leading to writing a couple of adult books, becoming a speaker, and creating a new persona I didn’t know I could do.
Live isn’t about finding yourself,
it is about creating yourself.
George Bernard Shaw
I am no longer afraid to call myself an artist. I may not be the best at painting or drawing, but Melanie helped unearth parts of me I never knew were there. I now understand the need for using creativity in all areas of life and I also better understand the importance of play, using my imagination, and recapturing the innocence of childhood. We are all artists. We all have different forms of canvas and we all have different playgrounds where we thrive. C.S. Lewis once said,
“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” That makes my heart happy.