Dear Creative Seeker,
I used to accompany my mom on her painting outings when I was little.
Sometimes we’d go to Coconut Grove, a bay in Miami as exotic and tropical as it sounds, one that challenges painters to capture the shimmering reflections of multicolored sailboats on a turquoise bay.
Mom had her oil paints. I had my crayons, which regularly melted in the Miami sun giving me the opportunity to color in goldenrod, aquamarine, and midnight blue all at the same time if they are melded together just right.
Mom was flawless in almost every way – hair, clothes, tennis, home décor, birthday celebrations, sewing, dancing, church attendance, bargain shopping, and completing my school art assignments without me even wanting her to do so.
My mom provided the grit in the oyster’s shell which produced who I became – a ruggedly independent, successful, fresh-water pearl, considered a tad odd but likable by 4 out of 5 friends.
Making my depressed mother laugh was one of my favorite pastimes. I didn’t know she was depressed until much later; I just knew making her giggle was the only way I could get her attention other than putting a thermometer on a lightbulb to feign high fever. She had a crush on Sidney Poitier and would take my brother and me to his movies when my racist dad was on business trips. So, I had a crush on him too. I also won the depression genes in the birth lottery.
Mom painted like a professional. She was a draftsman for the airplane engineering industry and you could see this skill in her paintings of sailboats with the shimmering reflections rendered just right, Jamaican women with wicker baskets on their heads, and true-to-life white foam waves so realistic they splashed over rocks and almost out of the painting. Her art was gallery quality, but she would deny it. She wanted to sell her paintings in a garage sale along with dusty old cookbooks, rejected Christmas presents, and used high heels. She never thought she was good enough.
My earliest notion of what art was supposed to be came from this beautiful, unhappy perfectionist, who turned out immaculate paintings, never happy with the results, and immune to praise from others. “Oh, they’re just gushing,” she would say when people complimented her, which I never understood. I looked it up and one of the synonyms of “gushing” is “admiring.” I eat up gushing no matter the synonym.
As for me? I am clumsy, lacking in patience, moody, resistant to instruction, short on frustration tolerance, and have no interest in doing the work that needs to be done to make sailboats, waves, and Jamaican women with wicker baskets on their head look precise.
Mom would take a crayon and go over my sailboat drawings to make them look more accurate, (inner scream). The message, “your drawings aren’t good enough.”
But I was a willful child, still in love with art not only as a world
where I could bring funny doodles into existence for the amusement of my friends, but because it was a place to stave off anxiety, isolation, and despair. I could focus on art and feel validated.
Discovering new dimensions of existence, the process became more important than the final product, although, I am attached to works that feel like souvenirs of surviving childhood. Eventually, my version of painting with passionate imprecision became a style that turned into a career of illustrating books I write and teaching others to experience this same validation, fun, and freedom in both art and writing. I suspect it's become popular because many people grew up not feeling they were enough either.
Wild Abandon is an approach that purposely makes it impossible to be perfect by letting go of control. We draw blind, turning reference material upside down, using the non-dominant hand, going fast. I have been teaching a version of writing for 25 years, that makes it easy to get words on the page without thinking as well. This leads to developing an effortless creative voice as it is intuitively and instinctually driven. Find my writing rules here.
When creating is fun, the inner critic is bypassed and the result is the discovery of an authentic style. In Wild Abandon, the inner critic is terribly confused and often leaves on his/her/their own. Fun offbeat art and writing prompts make us feel like kids again and take us into that all important place of being uninhibited.
Accidental masterpieces are common in Wild Abandon and my favorite part of teaching it is seeing the look on people’s face when they let go of the rigid, careful approach and create something that is filled with energy, mystery, and … themselves.
Experience Wild Abandon:
- July 10-15, 2022
Wild Abandon Creativity Omega Institute
- October 22-29, 2022
Creativity Retreat on a Greek Island
- Wild Abandon will be back at the Athenaeum in the fall.
- Take Wild Abandon Online: Watch for dates and recordings
- August 2022
Understand creative blocks and how mindfulness, intuition, and science frees your creativity by taking KMCC
Jill, a Fresh Water Pearl