"One night I was laying down,
I heard mama and papa talking.
I heard papa tell mama, let that boy boogie-woogie,
It’s in him, and it got to come out
And I felt so good,
Went on boogie’n just the same"
-John Lee Hooker Boogie Chillun'
History is full of unlikely artists, people with little exposure to art or access to materials, but who still somehow find a way to get their voice heard. People with little formal education, who create work as beautiful or more beautiful than anyone else because they have to find their own way to say it.
Elizabeth Cotten taught herself to play guitar upside down. Big Bill Broonzy made himself a fiddle out of a cigar box, and played with his friend Louis Carter, who played a homemade guitar. Henry Darger used junk he found in the streets to create over 15,000 pages of writing and art; a vibrant, beautiful, terrible world bursting out of him. Bill Traylor was forced to end his career as a sharecropper because of rheumatoid arthritis, and he slept in the back of a funeral parlor, creating beautiful drawings and paintings with whatever materials he could find.
It was in them and it had to come out.
I’ve been thinking about William Carlos Williams who worked as a doctor but found time to write poetry about the world around him. I heard a story once that TS Eliot worked long hours at a bank, and scribbled his poems on matchbooks. I’ve been thinking about people who overcome prejudice or political or religious oppression to say what they need to say, and maybe the struggle makes their voice more powerful.
I honestly believe that everyone has some world in their head that has to come out somehow, some song or story or picture. And maybe it won’t come out in any obvious way, maybe it will be in the unusual spices they add to their meal, or the pictures they take of their dogs, or the stories they tell themselves when they can’t sleep.
I believe that the creative process doesn’t stop with the product, it begins again when somebody reads or looks or listens, so that the person reading, looking, and listening becomes part of the process, becomes an artist, too. So maybe creativity will come out as the love you feel for a song, or the way you’re moved to tears by a book you read. Maybe it will come out when you share a favorite movie or painting with a friend. Maybe it will come out as a conversation with someone you love.
From all of us at Artspan, we offer a sincere hope that we all hold dear the art within each other and ourselves, and that we all find some way to draw it or write it or speak it or sing it!