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The First Artist

Say the word Art and nearly everyone has an image in their mind of what that is. For some people it may only be what is recognized as fine art, and for others it may be anything that is pleasing, thought provoking, or easy to look at. What about that moment when we first entered school and were given our own box of wax crayons to draw on a large white sheet of paper? It was usually after lunch when we were too old for naps, and yet we needed a transitional moment, a quiet time to unwind.

Remember the joy of holding those fat waxy crayons in our clumsy little hands, knowing in our minds what we wanted to draw and we only needed to get our hands to fulfill that desire. Now imagine you are the first person in your community to look at a bare cave wall and think, I know I could do something here, something amazing.  For those first artists without stores to shop at or a circle of like-minded folks, they must have felt totally alone and yet they still tried to do the impossible.

Everything from the pigments to create an image, to the tools to move the pigment was un-invented, unknown.  An unadorned wall is a rarity in our modern world where advertisers and social movements want to see their message. Every time we bicycle or walk past a wall mural or vintage barn painted with advertisements, we should think of those brave individuals that stood up in front of their entire clan to leave a masterpiece that 40,000 years later people are still marveling at, still coming to see.

Pigment; whether you are considering watercolor, oils, or even fine art pencils it is the pigment that was harvested from raw materials like stones, and even animals, that allows the artist to go beyond the crushed berry juice we may have tried as children.

Being an artist is not a hat you can try on and take off when it seems too large or the wrong style; no, being an artist is something that is innate to our very being. We today that can Google a product review to consider whether to purchase, we can thank those very first artists that had the courage to do what had never been done.

My simple sketch with pastel pencils on brown construction paper was initially begun as something else entirely but when the leads for these older pencils kept snapping and cracking and I had little flakes of pigment to work with, I did not give up, I did not get mad and throw the lot away, I thought, I imagine the first artist to draw on a cave wall would be thrilled to have these nonfunctioning pencils, and paper wouldn’t be invented for thousands of years, so stop whining and get busy. And that attitude may the biggest difference between regular, normal people and those willing to get their hands dirty, paint under their fingernails, and paint on their clothing because we are part of the tribe of artists. We have been here a long time and we haven’t finished illuminating our world through the glamour of art.

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