When I was a child, I had a vivid imagination. So much so that I think I spent most of my preteen years living in my fantasies and hiding from my realities. I don't know if I had an imaginary friend when I was very young, but I suppose I really didn't need it. I was my own imaginary friend.
I remember for awhile I was completely absorbed in knitting yarn. I would take the yarn and I would weave gigantic spider webs out of it. These things would stretch from one side of a room to the other. I would anchor each piece of yarn from one high corner to the opposing lower corner. When I had 8 of these crisscrossing each other, then I would start to weave an intricate spider web from one strand to the next until the thing dominated the room making it completely unusable unless you wanted to get caught in my web.
My mother bless her heart wouldn't discourage me. She knew the moment I was done I'd just cut each of the threads in the web and begin fresh again. Yeah I was an odd kid.
Another amazing thing to the child me was corn starch. I'd pour a whole box into a bowl and then add just enough water to it to make it solid enough to play with it and make imaginary shapes that would melt back into the bowl. It was grand fun to a child who lived in poverty and did not have many of the normal toys that most kids had. I made my own.
Then I grew up.
I put away the yarn and the corn starch and all my other toys and tried acting like an adult. I got married, I held down a full time job (rather unsuccessfully at times) and I tried to live in the real world. And I was a miserable failure at it. I was desperately unhappy but I didn't realize it at the time. No offense to my ex-wife who is still a dear friend of mine. No offense to the families who exist like this day in and day out. It just didn't work for me. I would watch couples we interacted with who had two kids, two cars, a nice house and it frightened me down to the core of my being.
Is this all there is??? I would ask myself this over and over again as the years passed. After thirteen years my wife we finally called it quits. As friends we parted ways and she went on to lead her life with someone much more responsible than I was.
And I left the world I had known. Literally! I sold off almost everything I had. Ended any business that needed my attention. And I tossed the few things I had left into my car and I started to drive. And I didn't stop for almost ten years. I would stay for a time with friends on the East Coast then I would drive all the way to the West Coast and stay there for a short time, then do it all over again. I crossed every state in the continental U.S.A. I visited every small town and major metropolis. I slept in Death Valley when it was 120 degrees even in the middle of the night. I camped at 10,000 feet in the Sierra Nevada mountains in the middle of the winter. I drove five hundred miles to a Bayou in Northern Louisiana to watch a meteor shower as far from the city lights as I could get.
And somewhere along the way I found a lot of the parts of me I had lost throughout the years.
When I finally settled in New Orleans and set my traveling aside, I attempted to find the rest of me. I finished writing a book I'd been working on for years. I became a professional photographer. And I fell in love with a city that was as bizarre and antiquated as I was.
But it was not until I became an artist that I found the final part of me that was still missing. That childlike wonder of the world.
Writing gave me part of it. Photography another part. But it wasn't until I began using the imagination I'd lost when I became an adult that I really found myself again. I didn't even realize I'd found it again until years after I became a full time artist. One day I looked around my studio at all these fantastical sculptures and paintings and realized I'd found myself totally again. I was home. Surrounded by these things that came wholly from my imagination. I was back in that small room playing with corn starch again. And it was exactly where I was meant to be.
To all who say to you that art is a waste of time. Tell them to look around and realize that everything around them is the product of someones creativity. Why we should fear allowing our minds to soar, is beyond me. But we are taught from a very early age that we should shun our imagination. We need to live in the real world and function within it. But its all illusion. This solid world we live in is built from those fantasies. And without them we are all just black and white beings going through the motions of life without really living life.
I've lived that way and I was miserable. How many others are miserable for the same reasons?
Artists have a chance to be both adult and child. Our art may become dark and offer messages to the world that they may not like or it may be light and filled with rainbows. But it is a simple fact that we would not create that art unless we freed our minds and started to see the world in a different way.
We should never fear that child. It makes us who we are.