Something about art moves people, I’ve learned. It has the power to touch people in ways we can’t fully understand. For a moment, stop and think about your favorite works of art — paintings, sculptures, architectural wonders. Can you define that feeling that comes over you when you view the work?
Of course, when we’re speaking of masterpieces, it’s only natural that people will have emotional responses. But what about our art? What about those imperfect works we turn out, those flawed artistic attempts that leave so much to be desired? I’ve learned that it’s not perfection that speaks through art, but the personal connection that gives meaning to every drawing and painting we create.
To restate my opening, there is, quite simply, something about art — even our art — that moves people.
Let me share a personal story. If you read Breathe In, Breathe Out — another of my blogs — you already know a bit about my older sister. You’ve also seen the charcoal portrait I drew, showing her as a young woman starting out on her own.
I drew this last December. I’d only been working with charcoal for a few weeks. At the time, she was seriously ill and under hospice care. As her birthday neared, I wanted to give her a gift that she would appreciate, something to celebrate not only her birthday but her life itself.
“Why don’t you draw a picture for her?”
When my husband first suggested it, it seemed an absurd idea. But the idea took hold in my brain, and I decided to give it a try. I found several pictures of my sister and used them as a sort of “composite” photo reference.
She knew I’d begun learning to draw, but she never expected to get a portrait from me. To say it was a surprise would be quite an understatement. She loved it and we hung it on the wall of her hospice room.
More surprises followed. Her health improved. The doctor and the nursing staff were soon talking about releasing her from hospice care. Now, when I visited her, she was able to get out of bed and into a wheelchair. On one Sunday afternoon, she asked me to wheel her down to the sunroom, a bright, cheery little place at the end of a corridor.
“You know,” she told me — out of the blue — “every time I look at that picture you drew and I see that spark in my eyes, I remember what it was like to be that young woman. I look at it and think of all the places I’ve been and all the things I’ve done, and I wonder how you could have given me so much of myself.”
It was my turn to be surprised. I’d had no idea how much the picture had meant to her. I knew, too, that every moment I’d spent with my pencils and sketchbooks, every charcoal mess I’d made, and every minute of frustration I’d dealt with in my attempt to learn to draw had been worth it. I told her that her words had made my efforts all worth while.
The good news, by the way, is that my sister was soon released from hospice care and is now living in an apartment of her own in an assisted living facility. She’s still facing some serious health issues, so all thoughts and prayers are appreciated.
But this wasn’t the only time my art brought an unexpected personal response. A few weeks ago, I gave a colored pencil drawing of a shark to a five-year-old grandson. He loves sharks, and I hoped he’d appreciate the fact that grandma had actually tried to draw one for him.
Did he appreciate it? Oh, did he ever.
Most gifts we give to grandkids earn a “Thanks,” but nothing could compare to the astonished look on this little boy’s face when he saw the shark. His eyes grew wide. His mouth fell open. “I love it!” he exclaimed, holding it tight with both hands. Again, I felt that sense that all my efforts were worth it for the sheer joy of seeing his reaction.
When his mother asked if he wanted to hang it on the living room wall, he shook his head vigorously. “No, it’s my shark, and I’m hanging it on my wall.”
I’ve now given away several “works of art”, and more and more, friends and family are asking me for drawings and paintings. One brother-in-law saw a painting I’d shared on Facebook. Would I make one for him? Several friends have seen other drawings or paintings I’ve posted and for some inexplicable reason want one for their very own.
It’s sure not because of any talent I have.
Maybe it’s partly because it’s fun to say “Oh, a friend drew that for me,” or “Yeah, my sister-in-law likes to paint,” or something similar. Or maybe it’s just because there’s something about art that moves people, something inexplicable, something that can’t be measured, analyzed, or even defined.
There’s a personal touch to art. That’s the only explanation I can offer.