The museum hallways are lined with a crowd made up of all ages. There’s a quiet chatter of anticipation.
We are here to see ourselves.
Or rather ourselves as depicted by the artist Norman Rockwell. Fifty of his paintings highlighting American life hang in the galleys of Crystal Bridges for a temporary exhibit. I’m here with my parents and we wander through scenes from not-so-long-ago. We wear headphones that tell us the story of each painting and I watch as amusement, intrigue and concern all make their way across the faces of those beside me.
As I pause in front of one painting, I notice a selection on my audio menu labeled “work process.” I press it and hear how Rockwell would sometimes spend weeks on creating a single new work. He began with a sketch so small it could fit in the palm of your hand. A concept, an idea. Then he used charcoal to draw it in large scale. If he didn’t like a particular aspect he would redraw it on a separate piece of paper and place that over the original.
Sometimes he did even more preparation. For one particular piece based on real events he researched the weather that day and spent time gathering countless other details. Only at the end of that process would he sit down with an actual canvas and paint.
I, like many others who have seen Rockwell’s work, just assumed he had an idea, picked up his paints and the vision became reality. But he worked at his art. And because of that, his art worked.
Here it is almost 100 hundred years after some of his paintings were created and folks are still lining up to catch a glimpse of them. They speak to us about who we are and who we would like to be.
We can have this idea that if something is a dream or talent, it should come easily and naturally to us. Yet over and over I find stories like Rockwell’s that are full of just as much perspiration as inspiration.
Know your strengths.
Develop your skills.
Understand who you’re called to serve.
Then work it, girl.
Every day for the rest of your life.
What are you called to do today? It might involve a paintbrush, a spreadsheet, a mixing bowl, a pacifier. All of that can be art. So do it well and with all your heart.
As we leave the exhibit I notice a commentary on the wall that says Rockwell had a unique talent for combining the ideal and the real. That’s what it means to be an everyday artist–to have one hand holding a grand vision and the other covered in callouses from making that vision become reality.
You are an artist.
You are a worker.
Yes, YOU are a masterpiece.