When things in life swirl out of my control, I have always turned to my artwork for an outlet. For me, creating calms the storms of uncertainties and pushes away the depths of despair. When my mind is solving the dilemmas of a painting or drawing, there is not much space left for worry.
If I were to chart them, the times I have been most prolific producing art would directly correlate to times when I, or someone I love, was facing some sort of pain or tragedy. This is hard for me to grasp although I have proof it’s true. How can pain, tragedy or lack of control fuel the fires of creativity?
The first time I remember this happening was over 30 years ago when my mother had multiple surgeries following a horrible car wreck. I was always the son who wanted to be by her side when she needed me, but I was also a husband and father who had to produce artwork to make a living. I figured out a way to do both.
Every morning I would pack up my art pads and pencils and a lap board my granddaddy had made for me. It fit across that one uncomfortable chair in the hospital room making a desk of sorts. I positioned the chair by the window so I could take advantage of the natural light. There I sat drawing beside Mother all day.
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It turns out it was very good for her recovery. She loved watching the blank sheets of paper magically come to life with whatever image I was drawing. It turns out that so did all the nurses and doctors who entered her room. It was pretty profitable also. Rarely a day went by that someone didn’t purchase what I had drawn that day.
Then there was the time I was crippled with the pain of kidney stones. Taking to the bed for rest, I couldn’t stand doing nothing. I figured the pain couldn’t be any worse if I had a pencil in my hand, so I began to draw. A sunflower appeared first. I guess its sunny attitude was wishful thinking on my part. I posted the drawing to Facebook and the comments started coming in by the masses.
“Why don’t you draw a hydrangea?” someone wrote. “I would love for you to draw a pig!” another lady wrote. I tried to honor each request and ended up with a collection of random and unrelated drawings. Although they didn’t take the pain away, at least I didn’t focus on it while I drew. These drawings became note cards titled “Kidney Stone Sketches.”
The numerous knee replacement surgeries my wife, Debra, endured over the last few years have provided plenty of time for me to whip out some drawings. With each surgery, my drawings became more and more detailed. I realized I couldn’t physically do anything to help Debra, but when I was sitting beside her with a piece of paper in front of me and a pencil in my hand, I was totally in control of what I put on the paper.
Recently, after my good friend and cycling partner, Stephanie Shadden, had a terrible fall from her bicycle right in front of me, I had to once again rely on my creativity to help. All I could see in my mind was the tragic accident. I had to allow my pencils to push those images aside and show me something beautiful to draw. Out came some peaches and caladiums.
Drawing is a much less expensive than therapy. What this all boils down to is being productive in a time of need. No matter what we excel at, we can all do something. When we have a purpose, hardships become a little less difficult and being busy gives our mind a little rest. Give it a try. It certainly has worked for me over the years.
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