A Letter to Society

Last night I posted this on FaceBook:

 And holy !$*# society, would everyone PLEASE STOP telling children they can never make any money being an artist?! First off, it is freaking NOT TRUE, and second, you’re SQUASHING THEIR SOULS.

Just. STOP.

End rant.

The situation that caused me to write it was a moment that happened after a presentation of mine to fourth graders in a school in LaGrange, Georgia yesterday. A fourth grade teacher came up to me, and as she began talking, her eyes began welling up with tears. She said, “As I sat here listening to you, I so wished that my sixth grade daughter was here to listen too. She is so talented,  –  very, very talented. This kid can draw,  I mean really draw. And she reads and writes all the time. It is her passion. She is GOOD at it. But just the other day she told me, ‘Mom, I need to figure to what to do for a real job. Everyone knows you can’t make money as an artist.’ “

I could see it broke this mother’s heart that despite the fact that she supported her daughter and her dreams, society had already deemed her dream as unrealistic. In sixth grade. Eleven years old. Told to give up before she even started. What might the world lose if this child does not get told a new message? What amazing creation might we ALL lose out on?

And it made me so flippin’ angry. And I’m not just angry for the children that want to be artists. I’m angry for any child that has a dream that society deems not realistic or practical. So I had to write this letter society because I see these faces every day – the faces of the souls you are squashing and I need to tell you something.

Dear Society,

When you say to a child, “That’s not practical. Find something realistic to do with your life.” what you are really saying is, “Your passion is not worthy, your dreams are not valid.“

When you say, “What’s your back up plan?” you are saying, “I don’t believe in you.”

When you say, “An artist? Have fun starving!” you are saying,  “The world won’t value you or your talent.”

When you say, “Being an adult is no fun, enjoy it now, kid.” you are saying, “The world will wipe you of your passions and dreams one day, and that is okay with me.”

None of this is okay. And we need to stop. The message these children are getting is just WRONG. How do we forget that these children are our future? They can make this world more amazing, more wonderful, more magical if we give them PERMISSION to do that and actually TELL THEM THAT THEY CAN. How about  we predispose them to success instead of failure? Expect them to fulfill their dreams, maybe?

Love and kisses,

Michelle

How about we all try this instead:

Dear Children,

This world is a hard place sometimes. And it is not fair sometimes. And you will have to make money to live it this world  – that is just a reality. Life is hard work no matter what. Do not expect anyone to hand you what you want in this life or to make it easier. No one, and I mean no one, is going to do the hard work for you to get that thing you want, to have that life you want.

But here is the part everyone forgets to tell you. When you work hard towards what you LOVE, doing what you are PASSIONATE about, what you think about all day every day whether you want to or not? It turns into something AMAZING. And all that hard work, does not feel hard at all. It feels…more like…heart work. And it makes you feel like a SUPER-HERO.  It makes your life feel MAGICAL.

I am not saying it is going to be EASY, but I am saying it is going to be WORTH IT.

You may have to work some extra side jobs for a while to pay those darn bills while you are pursuing your passion. You may have to stay up late at night finishing a project, or a painting, or practicing. You may get tired at times. You may get cranky at times. You may get so frustrated that you want to cry at times. You may even want to quit at times. But if you keep going, if you follow that little whisper in your heart, the one filled with all the good ‘what ifs’ and the dreams and the joy? I can promise you something, I can PROMISE you, if you keep going? It will be WORTH it. And you WILL be able to make a living at it.

And that life? The one YOU created, will feel so amazing and so magical that you will expect glitter and sparkles to come out of your fingertips as you talk and move your hands. You will want to tell as many people everywhere to do what you did -to follow their hearts and their dreams, because it is truly so wonderful and you will want that for everyone you see. Everywhere.

And the more people that get convinced? The more people that try? The more people that begin living their magical lives? The more magical our WHOLE world becomes.

So child, please, PLEASE go after that wild, unrealistic, non-practical, crazy dream inside your heart. We need you to do that and we believe you can. We believe in you so very, very much.

Love,

Society

A stroll down memory lane. With bunnies. And dogs. (And a Hippo.)

I am working on a pet portrait today. I have a few free weeks before my next week of school visits and a person emailed me asking if I still do pet portraits. She knew of me from a client I had probably 8-9 years ago. It was Joe Bunny. Not the client, the pet of course. But now I have a vision of a giant bunny-man sitting with me asking me to paint his portrait. HA! (Oh, I do entertain myself so easily.)

Anyhoo, it got me nostalgic, reminding me of how far I have come, and what I did to get here. Hundreds of pet portraits. So many late at night in the wee hours when it seemed everyone else on the planet was sleeping, but I was up painting. Sure, there were a few moments of desperation, wondering if this would lead to anything, but I can honestly say that I knew it would. There was something inside me that knew, I just KNEW that somehow, some way it would pay off. I just had no earthly idea HOW it would pay off. At least I knew I was consistently and constantly practicing, honing my painting style. And it was fun. And it certainly helped with much needed extra income.

So when this lovely lady asked me to paint her sweet Ruby, I said yes – but made her promise not to tell anyone I said yes. (I don’t have much time for pet portraits these days.) But one or two here or there?  Oh, it reminds me how much I adored painting people’s pets. And I really, really did.

Sometimes I still can’t believe I got the thing I most wanted – that I created exactly the life I wanted. And grateful? Doesn’t even begin to sum up how I feel. What astonishes me, what overwhelms me, is that I have so much MORE than I ever dreamed. The school visits? Oh my, they fill me up like sunshine. These kids fill up my soul to the tippy, tippy top. That I have the honor and privilege of talking to the future of this country and inspiring them to be great, to be more, to dream BIG, GIANT DREAMS?  There are no words.

And I’ve said it before and I will say it here again, I am shocked at how thirsty these kids are to here that they can and SHOULD dream BIG. Now, I never sugar coat it, I tell them about hard work, late nights, rejection and tears – oh, so many tears you will shed trying to make your dream happen, and still, they WANT, NEED to hear it. They drink my words up right in front of me. They are desperate for it. All of them.

People sometimes ask me if I meet kids I don’t like as I am always gushing on about them all after a visit. And you know what? I don’t. I never see the bullies, I never see the class clowns – well, maybe I see them for a few minutes in the beginning – but once I begin, something happens after the first 5 minutes. They begin to listen. To really, truly HEAR me. And for 45 minutes we do this energy dance. We pass this amazing, uplifting, hopeful energy back and forth between us until suddenly time is up. And when it is over we all look at each other and feel it. They believe in me and I believe in them and for that moment in time, we all believe in ourselves. It is magical. MAGICAL.  I can’t imagine not having that in my life with these children – something I never had ever imagined having at all, is what I love most about my career. It’s like getting everything you every wanted and finding out there is SO MUCH MORE – and you can have that too. And you realize, suddenly, perhaps finally, that it really is about the moments along the way, all of them and when you enjoy them all and know you have no control of the how, your dreams can get so much more big and amazing.

I guess I should go work on Ruby now. I have babbled long enough. Oh! Before I go, I promised Lucas a third grader in Indiana that I would make my painting of a Garden Hippo Gnome into an actual Garden Hippo Gnome and take a picture for him. This is for you Lucas!

Here is the original painting I bring to school visits:
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Here he is outside my house (you can see little Otto Von Schmidt at the door – heh.):
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Here is a detail view of Herb – the Garden Hippo Gnome:
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