My father was an artist. He had a den where he did his work, which was always filled with sawdust and curls of wood, tubes of paint and canvases and all kinds of other messy stuff that naturally I found fascinating as a kid. He found lots of things fascinating, and therein lies why we got along so well. We were like two peas in a pod…a sort of dorky, artsy pod.
One day he took me (not on his own or my volition, I’m quite certain) to soccer tryouts. We showed up and watched a few of my sporty friends bounce a soccer ball off of their foreheads for a while. Dad and I stared at the soccer ball itself, as if it were a stone from some unknown planet. After about five minutes we were back in the car, on the way to hobbytown, where we would undoubtedly purchase a kit for a model airplane. Or an archaeology excavation kit. Or more slides for my microscope.
The art that he produced in that den made a big impression on me. Not just the final product, but witnessing the process of creation itself. He would often look up from his work to find me standing there, silently watching. I knew something was going on, and I didn’t want to miss it. When I was in elementary school he took a block of soft gray stone and carved out of it the head of a cat. It amazes me that he had this capability in him and didn’t discover it until he sat down with mallet and chisel and carved this creature from stone. Or maybe talent doesn’t lie dormant at all, maybe it grows over time and he needed to learn and experiment in order to come to that moment, ready to discover the cat inside the stone? This is the type of thing we would discuss all the time: art, inspiration, and the elusive muse.
When he started “The Pride”, it was one of his first detailed wooden sculptures. He set it aside in the midst of working on it, when the heads were still square blocks, the legs not fully formed. I called dibs on the sculpture at that point, which everyone else thought was pretty funny. But he had already created a cat out of a block of stone, why not a herd of horses?
This is just a small part of what I learned from my father. Artistic creation is magical, but it’s also full of mistakes and false steps along the way (we can’t all be Mozart). In the end it is all the more beautiful for this effort and dedication. First, find joy in the process, and don’t give up. That, in itself, is magical.