by Cady Driver
This is a shout out to all of the naïve artists out there. Naïve art has been defined as many things from art with little or no training behind it, to outsider art or primitive art. The definitions, opinions and even the acceptance of getting schooled in order to learn how to paint naïve art, which seems like a misnomer to me, goes on and on.
Whatever your definition of naïve art is, I consider it to be art from the pure and untrained soul. Art that flows from the brush of an artist who dreams of training, but maybe cannot afford it. Art that has not been conformed and squished into the box of the art professor (not that there’s anything wrong with that!)
As a teenager, I remember whiling away long hours of Medieval Literature classes drawing intricate vines, flowers and scrollwork up and down my arms, wrists and fingers. When I was 17, my mother, in order to prevent me from suffering from a pre-mature death due to ink poisoning, plopped my rear down in the back of a dingy art store, stuck a brush in my hand, and prayed fervently that her daughter would find something other to do in life than draw on herself. Sure enough, it stuck! I was hooked and after 2 classes of tole painting, I decided to buy some cheap craft paints and simply teach myself.
I remember painting on anything that I could get my hands on….rocks, glassware, walls, vases and once, even a pair of deer antlers! Note to self: Rose vines don’t really add any decorative value to deer antlers. I was so fascinated with the colors, the flow of the vine, the turn of a leaf, that at times I would lose sleep over it.
Four years later, I found myself happily married with a baby on the way. Pregnant, I waddled around and festooned the nursery in our tiny house with flowers, fences, butterflies and birdhouses. Three years later, I found myself thumbing through a dog-eared art book while nursing my youngest, spooning food into the mouth of my 16 month old son and attempting to occupy a hyper three year old. Despite my exhaustion, I would still find time during naps to sneak down into our dingy basement, squeeze those alluring colors onto my cool whip top (I couldn’t afford a palette) and dab about with my cheap but still-beloved paints.
It was during my third pregnancy that I hatched the hair brained plan to donate a mural to the Yale Psychiatric ward in New Haven, CT. When the staff there accepted, I was thrilled! With miles of white walls, I had more canvas then I knew what to do with. I festooned the walls with fences, trees, flowers and bushes while the psychiatric residents there alternately watched, drooled, grilled me for my phone number and peed on my bushes, which was either an insult or a compliment depending on your point of view. (ooh, look! A bush to relieve myself on!)
It took me almost a year to finish that ward and by then, I was hooked by the mural bug. Caution: untrained muralist on the loose! Soon, people were paying me to design murals for their children’s rooms. I was donating murals to sick children, hospitals and doctor’s offices and I even had an article written about me in the newspaper. Thrilled doesn’t even begin to describe me at that point. If you are thinking that I am easily amused, then you would be right.
Well, if you’re still reading this, I must applaud you because my ordinary life as an untrained, naïve, artist mom is of no significance in the grand scheme of all things artsty and fartsy. I simply have one more event to write about and I’ve saved the best for last in this artistic journey.
In the ultimate pinnacle, the moment in time when all things culminate in a dramatic ending point of hallelujah moments……wait for it….my husband gave me a watercolor set 2 years ago for Christmas. What joy! If it were possible for my soul to be intravenously fed with watercolors, then hook me up! Not that I’m recommending this, mind you.
My journey has ended with a love for watercolors. I guess it is literally in my blood since my grandmother was a watercolor artist. I paint and I pound my desk in frustration and I read and I sketch and dream and clean house and mother my kids, homeschool and paint some more. I’ve taken 2 classes and nearly killed myself with excitement during each one. I’m the lucky wife of an IT guy and between the two of us, we designed my art website, advertise on Craigslist and dream up new ways to get my name out there. My art sells and while I am still relatively new to the watercolor world, I am already teaching classes, have a published children’s book out and I’m currently working on another! Woooo hooooo!
Hopefully, my little story can be an encouragement to all of the naïve artists out there who dream in whatever their flavor of art is. For the mom who can’t go to school, for the struggling art student, for the ordinary man at his eight-to-five job, for the inner city child dreaming of open doors, be inspired!
You can do it! Read and paint and learn and haunt the art galleries until you literally become a nuisance. Done that! There are many artists who have become great simply through sheer gritty determination to show the world what was in their soul. Will there be setbacks? You bet. Will there be disappointments and a longing to simply sit back and be taught the techniques that puzzle you? Always. Can you overcome these things on a limited budget in spite of life’s curveballs? Without a doubt. At the end of the day when you have conquered and succeeded, how will it feel? Priceless.
Life is simply brimming with artistic possibilities. Go out there and do it!