When I was young, Mom would always buy me a coloring book and crayons if I was sick – kind of like Christmas five or six times a year. I carefully and happily colored inside the lines as my mom cooked chicken noodle soup for me. The real kind. From the box. Meanwhile, my sister, who inherited the creative genes, was turning out amazing oil paintings by age 14. That was OK. At my age, I liked the soup and coloring books just fine.
Later, in high school art class, my teacher stopped and stared at my work one day.
“Why do you sketch only faces of beautiful, perfect women?” she asked.
“Um,” I replied, “because I am not an artist?”
It never occurred to me to try something more interesting. I like to think that we boomers are a content group. Sure, we have our protests and passionate causes. But we are also laid back. Boomers have a long history of being mellow, quite possibly due to the influence of various chemical substances. But never mind that now, because I have a tale to tell about my recent entree into the world of art.
It starts at a bagel shop.
It’s a Sunday, and I’m splurging on a wheat bagel accompanied by olive cream cheese. Let us pause for a moment to consider that such an item is indeed a work of art on its own merit.
Moving along, a young man I know who works there (I’ll call him “Chris” because it happens to be his name) is telling me about his sideline: photography. He is describing his artistic process in meticulous detail.
“And then I take the finished product, and …,” he says.
I peek into the bag I’m holding. Yes, it’s all there – bagel, cream cheese, even a plastic knife they deem safe enough for me to use at my age.
As he continues, I admire not only his descriptive artistic concepts, but also his healthy, 20-something youthful look. See, that’s why I’m having a bagel today, because maybe the extra fat calories will fill in my wrinkles. But I’m still listening to Chris, because if there’s one thing we boomers can do, it’s think of 20 things at once, which is probably why nothing seems to stick in the brain very long.
“Sometimes I frame them by taking …,” he says.
Now, I flash back to a project I started years ago but never finished, one in which I ripped out hundreds of sketches from a Victorian-style appointment book. The pile sat there for months, while my artistic visualization dwindled and I watched “Seinfeld” reruns. Now I can only wonder in which of my dozens of storage bins the stuff might have landed. That appointment book was significant, let me assure you. It held writings such as “return library books,” “call pharmacy” and “quit watching so much television.” One doesn’t want to part with such remarkable memories too easily.
In spite of all things unfinished and non-artistic that I have barely attempted, as I listen to Chris, there is a new spark within.
“Chris,” I say. “I need to stop you. You have inspired me to begin something new. Something big. Something real. I need to go to a coffee shop, sit down and figure it out.”
I snag a hug from him and leave.
At the coffee shop, I give a detailed order of a beverage that could cause even the best barista to quit. She doesn’t. Soon, I feel the artistry coming on. Boomers like that good feeling – somewhere between a sit-in and an anti-nuclear rally. Or it might be the caffeine.
Sipping my drink, I start to spread the olive cheese on the bagel, breaking off small pieces, fashioning the cream cheese in little dabs here, longer strokes there. I’m thinking of what new artistic venture I could delve into. Suddenly, I swell with an exciting statement of existence. You know, how we’re all pieces in this bagel we call life, and sometimes the path is smooth, sometimes the olives, I mean the road, is bumpy. I begin to see art as reflective of a greater truth. No pretty-girl drawing here. No, this boomer is digging into the process with inspiration. Could this finally be the start of a creative energy within? A commentary on our culture? This needs to be shared. How do I preserve this, my newly discovered neo-sculpture? Shellac? Frame? The possibilities are endless.
Eh, what the heck. Crunch. Gulp. Swig.
Maybe I’ll just go buy a coloring book. I hear they’re very big now.