Brother’s art becomes a teaching moment
He was president of Michigan Christian College, was vice president of central Florida's university system and preached the gospel for 30 years. He and his wife were married just shy of 60 years and reared three children. As a lifelong artist, he ...
He was president of Michigan Christian College, was vice president of central Florida’s university system and preached the gospel for 30 years. He and his wife were married just shy of 60 years and reared three children. As a lifelong artist, he loved the camera, acting and singing basso-profundo at church.
At his memorial celebration two weeks ago, people from across the United States brought his other arts to share: painting and wood crafts.
My brother Walt was a hobby landscape painter who picked up a brush after his 40th birthday. Even I didn’t know he was as skilled … and certainly not as prolific a painter as he was. His children asked friends and family to bring paintings from the West Coast, from the South and from the universities where he served. They had a large art show of his work worthy of any gallery exhibition. Several dozen paintings alone would be a close estimate. There were many large photos and individualized wooden creations; in total, the number of their grandchildren and great grandchildren, again close to a dozen.
Because he was so modest regarding his talents, he said little to me about his paintings, preferring to speak mainly about the woodwork he did for his grandchildren.
On the way back to Jamestown from the services, I kept wondering how many other people hide their talents, fearing criticism, or of not being “good enough.” I thought back to my mother’s skill at quilting and how inadequate I felt sewing with her.
The few times he showed me a photo of a new painting, he’d apologized, saying it was not as good as I could do. But there was nothing he couldn’t do and do well - except outlive the cancer that took his life on May 22.
Creativity was always expressed by each family member. We all sang in church; we repaired things that broke, and had vegetable gardens wherever our dad was stationed with NASA. Dad had a darkroom, mom sewed our clothing and anything made of fabric. Both brothers tinkered with cars, and they made small, hand-carved models of airplanes, delivery trucks, trains, ships, cars and spacecraft. I don’t remember many store-bought toys when we were young. We made just about everything and assumed everyone else did too. Some families did and many still do. But some people are afraid to try a creative activity for fear of failure or criticism. Failures teach us problem solving. We must fail to succeed: even when doing art.
Providing opportunities for people of any age to do art is important. Whether begun during school-age or after retirement, arts and crafts activities heal the mind and body, plus build the spirit. The arts need to be made available from the cradle to the grave.
It matters little whether a man or woman uses a chainsaw, a half-ton table saw, a gouge, paint brush or quill pen to make the art. Art can be done using an acetylene welder, a Dremel tool, a crochet hook or the finest computerized embroidery machine. It can be done with recycled paper and cardboard boxes or with the finest art equipment available. It just needs to be available, encouraged and tried.
Doing art makes memories. Yes, a gift of art makes memories for the recipient. But memories made doing the art may be even more valuable.
Memories of working with our hands are stored in different parts of the brain from the memories made using only the eyes. Hand memories, the “tactile senses,” are stored closer to the pleasure center of the brain and so are the association links tied to that activity. Those memories last longer than mundane task memories do. It’s why making things is important for Alzheimer’s patients. It helps them recall other memories.
Humans need to make and create. It’s vital for a happy and balanced life.
My brother’s business was education, business and finance. But his involvement in theater, music, visual, written and vocal arts were necessary factors for his balanced and happy life. It is for almost everyone.
Exhibiting the fruits of a creative life is also important. Even if only one person is encouraged to try his/her hand at some creative display, by seeing someone else’s art, then braving the public showing/criticism is well worth the effort.
Many artists are timid about public criticism of their work. My brother considered his work too personal and not for public viewing. But his only solo art exhibit inspired a sanctuary full of people to at least try some art medium. I wish he could have heard the comments, the “oohs and aahs” expressed. He inspired his little sister and his expertise left me awestruck.
I feel it’s so important to give art a try in order to find that lost need inside, the one that wants to say something but doesn’t know the language to use. Starting with a pencil and trying a schoolkid’s watercolor set is perfect. Just play with it and don’t worry whether anyone likes it or not. It’s not their inner child at play - it’s yours.
If anyone has an item for this column, please send to Sharon Cox, PO Box 1559, Jamestown, ND 58402-1559.