See that? That's my Writer Hat.
It has a feather quill pen and an ink pot. For all my steampunk writing adventures. In hot air balloons, I hope.
I have this other hat, you see. I bought it at Target, and the plan is to turn it into a pirate's hat through the use of ribbon and string and feathers and pointy things that I have no business using. That's why I found myself in Hobby Lobby today.
And that's where I had one of those tiny epiphanies.
I've been haunting art supply stores all my life. I know which brand of acrylic is better for painting canvas vs. paper and which India ink smells the worst and the only kind of tempera that doesn't crack on windows. I love to run my fingers over paintbrushes-- the expensive ones that I've never been willing to pay for. I love posing the wooden mannequins, looking at rows and rows of pristine pastels, and giving myself tattoos with the rainbow of Sharpies.
In short, I'm an artist.
Except that I'm not anymore.
I saw canvas on sale today and thought, "That's a pretty good price!"
And then I realized that I no longer want to paint. That I don't even think I'm a very good painter. That although I can draw better than most people and have years of training and experience, for the most part, I've left visual art behind to pursue my writing career. I'm a much better writer than I ever was as a painter, and when I find a postcard from one of my shows lying on the floor of the garage under a bed of leaves, I feel a little sheepish. For so long, I thought that I would become a great artist. But it never happened.
Instead, I became a writer.
I now feel about painting the same way I feel about guys I used to date. They were nice. They were great at the time and have much to offer the right person. But for me, it was never meant to be. Each time, I thought OH MY GOSH, THIS IS SO PERFECT. ALL MY DREAMS WILL COME TRUE! And only once did that actually occur, which is why I'll be celebrating my tenth wedding anniversary next May.
Art has become an ex-boyfriend.
I walk into an art supply store or a gallery, and I feel old, wise, smirky, nostalgic. "I've been here," I think. "I used to do this, too. I have been around this block. Good times." And I leave empty-handed and heavy-hearted, knowing that even if I travel that road again, everything will be different. Knowing that, deep down, it was just a stepping stone.
I like to imagine myself at sixty, taking a watercolor class. And the instructor will be someone much younger who will explain the color wheel and transparency and masking, and I'll just smile gently and think, "I know, honey. I know."