Many of us remember Bob Ross. The lovable PBS painter with an afro made of pure gold, who taught us to take any crappy thing and turn it into a happy little cloud, tree, or bird. I adored him. And naturally, in tow, I adored art class.
For Kristina and I both, throughout most of school, art was not only a favorite subject but generally somehow involved in our best-friend-future-business plans. For instance, we were going to open the coolest hair salon that would also be featuring our art (and other local artists, of course) on the walls. Or, we were going to move to New York and do drawings for fashion designers, until we started our own fashion line (obviously). Or, there was that pet shop/veterinary clinic where we would save animals and also offer painted pet portraits….. okay, I’m not sure that last one was real, but I have a plausible, vague remembrance of a fifth grade conversation…Point being, artistry was something we knew we possessed and didn’t want to lose.
However, I’m pretty sure I hit my artistic peak back in fourth grade. We had a “guest lesson” in class, meaning someone from the outside world came in for one day and blew our minds with knowledge. This particular visit was from an art teacher (or artist, I just remember a sweet sweater vest) and she encouraged us to blend mediums, using pastels and water colors. PASTELS AND WATER COLORS. What would be next?!?! Colored pencils and shrooms???? Needless to say, I got really excited and really into it, creating an underwater wonderland full of sea creatures and completed with me, scuba diving. I knew it was awesome, but when it blessed the pages of our local newspaper, I was pretty sure Van Gogh could suck it. “Artist” was my future.
As time and talent revealed, Kristina had the true artistic eye (her photographs give me life) and my art form ended up in the physical realm through Pilates. Regardless, sometimes when we get together we still like to bust out the paint brushes and pay homage to the good old days when we would sell our drawings for dimes to the neighbors (thank you Pat for always giving us a dollar). The last time we put brush to canvas was at Kristina’s house in Washington. I was going through some personal sadness and she knew that art would be the perfect rainy day way to work through it. I set out to paint a girl on a cliffs edge, at nightfall, holding her heart over the ocean below…. It was a beautiful thought…. By the time we were done, Kristina had made a gorgeous multi colored abstract design of wonderment that I would still hang in my house today (it was unfortunately lost in a cat related water accident). I created a lego person holding a red dot, on top of a mountain of poo, maybe somewhere out in space. It was terrible. Kristina asked me if I wanted to take it home on the plane. We laughed. She put it in the garage. Van Gogh you are legend.
So when Kristina came to my casa, I decided to leave the painting to the professionals and take her to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACMA, so we could be inspired by something other than my sad poop mountain. With more than 120,000 items throughout, from antiquities to modern day, I knew we’d see some incredible collections. But when the first thing we saw as we approached was a rock….well, I started to feel a bit more confident about my skills…..
The Levitated Mass. It’s a rock. It’s art. Cue the Pet Rock ……. But…. but, maybe… it’s not a rock. No, its not a “rock” at all. It’s a 340 TON GRANITE MEGALITH. (*Side note, should I ever start a metal band, Granite Megalith is first name choice.) Yes, Michael Heizer’s 456-foot-long open air concrete corridor leads you to a 15 foot belly view below the granite beast. In person, it is, visually stunning. But more than looks is the feeling it evokes. I’ll be honest, we didn’t really care to see it based on the photos we had seen prior to our visit, but being beneath it, you feel like a little ant under the moon. Otherworldly. We did our best to capture the awe and then moved inside for some pieces more our size.
Entering the four story Ahmansan Building, weaving in and out and of other visitors, we quickly gravitated towards the Modern Art collection. We passed portraits and abstracts, scenic depictions and still life, until the massive canvass of the “Unfurled Series: Beta Ro” and “Toward Disappearance” had us mesmerized. Huge oil and acrylic splashes of paint on infinitely blank backgrounds. It’s incredible how the use of so little paint can take such great skill and reserve, demonstrating the art of knowing when to stop. Kristina and I soaked the room in, wanting to take the pieces off the walls and carry them home. Nobody would notice, right? We continued on through works by Matisse, Léger, and Miró, more paintings intermixed with strange and surreal sculptures. Picasso was also among the artists featured, and as we came upon the “Portrait of Hélène Parmelin” I was sure I was his muse in a past life, circa 1952. I mean come on, the resemblance, right down to my shifty eyebrow, are SPOT ON. How else would he know how my hair looks in the morning? You can call me Helen.
As we left my portrait, we headed outside to grab a quick coffee at the cafe and to get some fresh air at the Urban Light. Just over 200 (202 to be exact) restored cast iron, antique street lamps, make up Boston artist Chris Burden’s popular L.A. attraction. Just toss #Urbanlights into the search bar on Instagram and you can see that old gym teacher you were wondering about, smiling ear to ear, like every other Angeleno and tourist alike who visits. I couldn’t resist throwing down some back bends while Kristina snapped some pics, and naturally, I Instagramed it.
Turning our sights towards the Pavilion Of Japanese Art, we headed back inside. Although, it was kind of like going inside to go outside, seeing as most of the art shown featured large and beautiful depictions of cherry blossom trees. As we continued through and hit the third floor, my laughter broke the silence. A hanging scroll titled “Daruma”, was the spitting image of a former business mentor and current friend of mine, who lives in the Valley. Let me just say, he looks fantastic for being around since the 18th century. We walked on, admiring dozens of small carved figurines and dishes, and then exited to take a quick lap through the gift shop before heading home.
Upon returning back to Washington, Kristina harnessed those Van Gogh vibes and signed up for a pop-up painting class in Olympia, hosted by the Classroom Collective. I was jealous I couldn’t be there to go with her, but upon seeing her stellar results and remembering my last attempt with canvas, I was happy to just admire her talent. I still wanted to tap back into my inner artist too, so I happily settled for stocking up on fancy coloring books and splurging on the nice colored pencils at Michael’s crafts. Did you know that coloring is considered a “mindful exercise”, like meditation? As a person myself who seriously struggles at meditating, this is great news. And it’s true! I feel more calm and relaxed after coloring, and it has long been one of my favorite on flight activities when traveling.
Point being, weather a trip to the museum, an art class, or some coloring books, taking some time out to indulge and explore your creative side is always time well spent. You don’t need a bunch of medical and scientific studies to prove that when you are exposed to, or create art, it’s good for you. You can feel it. Instantly. And who doesn’t want to instantly feel a little bit better? So when I’m feeling stressed, or sad, or blah, I reach for those pretty packs of pencils. And if I accidentally slip outside of the color book lines, I just remember to make that smudge a happy little flower and move on. Art is art. Make whatever kind you like, whenever you feel like it, and feel a whole lot better for it. Bob Ross would be so proud…..
Xx – Sarah