Becoming an Artist
I have always loved playing with visual art, but I never thought of myself as an Artist- with-a-capital-"A", until early 2013.
The catalyst was a job I had for the 2012 holidays working at a Christmas ornament kiosk, where one of my tasks was to write on the resin-cast ornaments and embellish them with Sharpies. I began to think about what it would be like to draw with Sharpie on ceramic tile. My sister-in-law had some surplus tiles in her garage and was happy to let me plunder what I wanted. Next, I bought a couple of sets of Sharpies in an array of colors and prepared to create.
But what would I draw? Tile was a new terrain, a wide open space, unlike the tiny, prescribed spaces where I wrote on ornaments.
Fun with Lettering
My first impulse was to write words. At the kiosk, I wrote people's names on the ornaments, but I decided to write more interesting words on my tiles. The first one I did on a 2.5" x 3″ tile fragment read, “Well behaved women seldom make history.” ~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.
Then I made a couple more on larger tiles. Soon, I was making several other lettered tiles with quotes.
I learned quickly that lettering in Sharpie on tile is tedious. It’s very difficult to keep the lines of text straight in all that vast expanse without any reference points. To minimize the aggravation, I would deliberately stagger the lettering, which fooled the eye into seeing the lettering as straight, or at least that I meant it to look that way. When filling in a space, this medium tends to show every stroke of the Sharpie.
Origin of the Bliss Girl
I began to wonder what else I could put on tile besides words, little flowers, and abstract designs. Then, I remembered my Bliss Girl. She was born in my journals c. 2001. I drew her to remind me I’m as much spiritual as material, to visualize unflappable equanimity through my inner knowing that all is well.
I can’t say it was an entirely successful exercise, in that Charlie — and anyone close to me — knows I’m far from unflappable. That said, focusing on and drawing the Bliss Girl image got me through some very dark times.
It seemed her minimalist lines would work well with the Sharpie’s flow, and I was right. She was a joy to draw. Just her hair, eyes and lips to color. Eyes and lips are small fill spaces where the pen strokes are not so obvious. Perfect. Hair is the one feature that is improved by the visibility of the pen strokes because they add texture.
After drawing the prototype Bliss Girl, I took a brightly colored Sharpie and wrote: "Follow your bliss, girl!"
I surveyed my work. Something was still missing. So much black and white in the drawing. Eyes, lips, and hair near the top of the figure brought in some color, but an anchor was needed. I picked up a pink Sharpie, drew a little whimsical heart and colored it in.
Yep, that’s a heart where her vagina is supposed to be. I’m not even going to attempt to explain it. In the words of Mike Myers’ Saturday Night Live character Linda Richman, “Discuss amongst yourselves.”
"You Should Take that to Art Walk"
I showed my creations to a few friends, and was surprised how much they liked my work. Several people encouraged me to try selling them at Art Walk, a monthly event held in downtown Jacksonville to promote the arts.
The next thing I knew, in preparation to be an Art Walk vendor, I was creating a whole series of Bliss Girls in all shapes, sizes, and colors, plus a handful of other designs. I used tiles of varying sizes -- some I made into fridge magnets; others became small wall plaques if I glued ribbon loops on them for hanging. Even more surprising, I sold two fridge magnets on the first night.
I AM an Artist
After the Bliss Girl series, I began experimenting with a new technique called Zentangle, learned from my friend Carmen Joyce, who was hosting art groups to promote mental health. This approach lent itself well to the Sharpie-on-tile medium, so I made a few more pieces.
Even though I sold a couple of fridge magnets on the first night I vended at Art Walk, I only made $10 for the five hours I spent watching people walk by my table. After about three months of Art Walks, I couldn't justify putting that much of my time into vending. However, this experience taught me I have a creative talent that others appreciate enough to pay for it.
Ever since, I have known the truth: I AM an artist.