I met Laurie White at Alt Summit in early 2013. It was almost a chance meeting. I was talking to a Blog About Love's Mara Kofoed and she introduced us. We had to talk, Mara said. Completely taken by Laurie's vision for children and art, I asked her to share it with us. She wasn't quite ready. I can wait — impatiently. It was worth it.
Art has always brought me peace. As a child, I soothed myself by drawing the jar of mixing spoons and spatulas as my mom cooked dinner. As a slightly over-stressed teenager (too high of expectations for myself and a pleaser to the nth degree), I had ulcer disease and headaches. My wonderful piano teacher teacher gave me some Baroque music that I could learn easily, but play pleasurably. She told me to bring it out when I was stressed and it would calm me down. It worked like a charm. When I am overwhelmed or feeling stressed, creating something calms my mind and brings solace to my soul.
Last year, I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I had genetic testing done, and found that I was positive for the BRCA gene mutation. During my recovery following my double mastectomy, art saved me. I created a number of little pen and ink paintings that I gave to family and friends. It was such a delight to give something to those who were doing so much for me and for my family (my husband and I have seven children).
For the first eight days after the surgery, I couldn’t move my arms at all. I was experiencing great pain and having a hard time. On the eighth day, I had just come home from a doctor appointment and was getting settled back in bed when I thought I would try to hold a pen and write in my journal. I could only move my hand a little without disturbing my arms and chest. But with that tiny movement came hope! If I could hold a pen to write, I wondered, “Could I draw?” I was overcome with joy as I took my pen and started to sketch on a small, white, watercolor page. As the days and weeks of my recovery went by, I drew and sketched and water-colored. My heart was happy; my soul was healing. Some of the greatest artists discovered their love of art in their sick beds. Henri Matisse was given a paint set while he recovered from surgery at age 20. Matisse, who was often known as ‘nervous', relieved his tension through painting. Even though I couldn’t take care of my kids, cook, clean, and drive carpool, I could create.
One opportunity I have had to create and feel peace is to share my love of art with young artists. I want everyone to experience the joy of creating something beautiful! I have been an art teacher and elementary school art volunteer for over 16 years. I never tire of the feeling I get when I teach children and youth art, or share my enthusiasm with parent volunteers and elementary schools. Each and every hour I spend at this endeavor lifts my soul as I facilitate discovery and appreciation in others. Like Picasso, I believe “Everyone is an Artist”. Inspiring children, parents, and teachers through art brings me great satisfaction.
This past week, I was able to teach in both my first grader and my fourth grader’s classrooms. Oh, what joy! I can’t describe the feeling of being back in the classroom after a long and busy summer. All the work and preparation pays off in an hour and a half as I teach and draw with my students. Little faces full of concentration and rapture. Eyes lit up with excitement as they recreate a masterpiece. Confidence fills the room as these great artists finish their work. It never fails to float my boat. I forget my disappointments and worries, smiling as I leave the school and walk to my car.
And healing came along the way.
1. I painted the fish painting just before my double mastectomy. I call it “Ode to Matisse”. I painted it to go with a room redo my friends help me do just before my surgery.