Every little thing that you have said and done
Feels like it’s deep within me
Doesn’t really matter if you’re on the run
It seems like we’re meant to be
-Karl Martin Sandberg, “As Long as You Love Me”
A Roar for Rainbows
It is the summer of 2013. My mother has just handed me an old photo. It’s a candid shot of a little kid covered in paint. I look up at my mom, who is standing in the middle of my creative studio space.
She sticks out like a sore thumb (Gardner, from the Mason Novels) because everything in the room is saturated in green, the organizers, the floor mats, and the walls.
The saying: "Sticks out like a sore thumb comes from these books. There are at least 50 books in the series. I just got the first this week. I have long tome to enjoy! Are you a Perry Mason fan? If you are, recommend the top three and I will make sure to give them a read.
All but the two of us are covered in a soft seafoam of lemon-yellow green and recently rubbed off layers of dusty disuse. We both smile and wipe away the tears of a former photograph and this simultaneous good memory.
I see the solvent is slipping rainbows down my latest painted canvas. It’s been years since I have been able to do this. Medical complications have robbed me of my ability to move freely. This virus has inspired my newest vendetta: take back my creative powers from the clutches of the memory balance thief living in my brain. For me, making my imaginings into visual art is the bisection of my artistic obsession.. This time, I am winning. It feels so good, so rational to live in aesthetic ponds of pigments.
I say to my mom, “I feel almost myself today.”
The vertigo beast is hiding in the dark lair of my brain’s nervous system. It is unable to reach me today because we finally found medications that keep the evil barbarian temporally chained to the wall of memory. I have pulled out paints, ground out hues on to my pallet, and slithered shapes on to the canvas resting upon my easel. Sometime between grinding the pigments and touching the canvas with the scent of poppy oil, I started to find my soul once again.
In this moment my mom has caught me painting for the first time in years. Her face is full of joy because she knows her daughter has started to fight back and win against the vertigo beast. It is an emotional moment for both of us. She laughs as she teasingly taps an orange paint mark on my jawline. She kisses me on the top of my pink head-covering to avoid the unintended marks of paint I have accidentally scribbled onto my face. They found their way there during my current efforts to resolve the conflicts within the existing canvas. Ma’ says, with a mixture of victory and heartache for my struggles with the vertigo beast,
“Remember who you are.”
As she hands me the photo, it dawns on me, her words are like Mufasa’s stormy plea to his son Simba, from the clouds of heaven, in the movie The Lion King. Then, just like Mufasa...
My mother leaves the room to allow me to paint and soak up the celebration of knowing, once again, who I am. I look down at the photo as it sucks me back to the age of three. I watch the memory float before my eyes. I am the little girl, and yet, I see the scene like sitting in a theatre watching a Disney video.
A little girl in a early 1990s black and white polka dot dungaree dress stands in the middle of her preschool classroom. She has been too antsy, is unable to focus and has started to distract the class, again. Mrs. VerScottsgy pulls her to the back-left side of the classroom. She hands her a paintbrush, stands her by the children’s easel, and tells her,
“Come back when it is not too much anymore. Okay, Michelle?”
“Kayed,” she replies.
Pictured below is my pallet for oils. I arrange everything the same way from colour, to value to eventually: "Get in there, I need that colour too."
Off in her little world, Michelle riffles through the treasure box below the bottom right side of the kitchen’s play oven. She pulls out a cheap set of beads which Michelle pretends are magic pearls sent from her favorite friend and book, Matilda. Michelle imagines Matilda has a better giant secret pet than the lame parrot in the book; this pet is named Tom. (Dahl, “The Ghost”.).
Tom is a cool T-rex–dragon–unicorn who saves Michelle from the mean kids who pick on her when Mrs. VerScottsgy is not looking. She pretends Tom eats them. Michelle says under her breath, “Raaawr!”
Michelle takes the paintbrush and opens all the paints her friendly teacher gave her until it was all ‘okay-ed’ again. Then, she starts to paint pictures of her, Matilda, and Tom until she has an itch on the left side of her tiny button nose. The little girl never notices that she has paint all over her right hand. She scratches the nub of her nose without thought for her mucky hands. She looks like a muddy rainbow tribal initiate trying to get into the French Academy of Art and failing miserably in her visual self-presentation.
(Not much has changed, maybe a bit less messy, but I never go to the canvas unscared)
Often before writing, I draw what I am imagining before commiting the words to paper. This was my little day dream sketch that eventually turned into this essay. It's easy to see that I am not thinking much about composition, or taking any time for accuracy. But that's not the point. It's just the focal point that allows me to express better then words what I want to say.
The day my mom handed me that old photo is among the top thirteen moments of my life. I think it is one that I will carry to my deathbed. It can still bring me to tears. I presume this is because I cannot remember a time when I did not need to make something. I have, without exceptions, always known what I wanted to do. I am an artist.
Art is a devotional habit, a spiritual, ritual experience that I feel is worth obsessing over. I never got over the childish joy of repeating in imaginative play as often as possible. I have found that in the act of creation, I can fill the “behaviors of art: ritual and play”. (Dissanayake 401.).
Play is a vital part of my artistic, imaginative learning experience. (Robinson, The Benefits of Play for Adults.). The ritual of pushing pigments is an essential excavation of my artistic soul. (Fradera, The Power of Rituals.). My need to be in front of an easel is a critical act of both play and ritual. It is my place of ritual prayer and imaginative play. Without these two essential behaviors or the roaring superpowers of my learning disabilities, I would not be an artist.
An artist is one who creates using physical elements to make pleasing, visually aesthetic, or useful tools, sounds, or ideas that amplify the human spirit into action or feeling. There is much debate as to what is art, but that is for the pompous rich, current conventional art critics, and the general masses to decide.
“The behavior of art is unique to the human species.” (Dissanayake, 397.). “There is no society that has been discovered that does not display some examples of what the modern western culture has accustomed to call art.” (Dissanayake, 398.).
At my upcoming art show, called The Cavalli Corner, I want to allow others the joy of making things regardless of their income. Covid has taken so much. Jobs, family members, adventures, and the contentment of everyday life. I want to help bring that back to my fellow neighbors and Watford-ites. The show will be up for the month of July. Come stop by and support my local community. Cassio Metro Concierge Office Lindon Aveenue, Watford, WD18-7AG
As for me, I will make stuff or die from the inside out. I learned this lesson the hard way in the summer of 2010 when a virus stole my nervous system’s ability to remember how to keep my vestibular system balanced. I could not do anything physical except to listen and imagine my life away. All the while, we, my family and I, looked for answers with no results. I felt like all my dreams were over. I was never going to get into galleries, graduate college, have a job, travel the world, read books or be just a “Regular everyday normal guy.” (Lajoie.).
I felt lost, mentally wounded and physically humbled. Yet, I was never a quitter. I was told from a very young age by my Glinda the good, Mrs. VerScottsgy, to pause what made me antsy and take a positive action until it was all okay-ed. (Baum, Wizard of Oz.). I became an artist because of my array of learning disorders. As a child, these maladies plagued me. I was invariably in trouble. Not all people are like Mrs. VerScottsgy. They do not have the patience to allow people like me to do my best work in a way that fits my learning style. I was lucky when I won the preschool lottery. That woman gave me an avenue to hone my creative notions made by my learning melodies. She taught me it was acceptable to have problems, but it’s what you do with them that makes you fine or finished.
“Someone whose eyes simply said, without words, you is fine with me.”-Kathryn Stockett, The Help
My ADD and ADHD allowed me to escape into a dream world of distraction from the jaws of the newest air-born balloon-deflating rollercoaster ride I was stuck on for the foreseeable future. While my body would feel like it whipped in the center of Miss Gulch’s’ tornado. (Schwartz). I would dream up thousands of creations and exactly how I would make them. Meanwhile, my OCD is like a roaring artistic dragon named Tom. (Totally Obsessed Michelle.). And when Tom is not happy, the fairy tale of Chicken Licken has nothing on me when I feel a pea drop on my head and declare, “The sky is falling.” I no longer care about Foxy Loxy’s evil ally, the barbarian balance thief who would bring me back to its vertigo lair of deathly reality. (Wikipedia, Henny Penny.).
“Just do it.” -Dan Wieden, creator of the Nike advert.
Over the years I learned how to ignore vertigo, and the numerous hellish feelings like I live on a helium balloon exploding out of the air as it steadily squawked into a high pitched “Pewh!” noise continually ringing in my ears. There was no medical answer at that time as to why balance problems plagued me.
Without the help of doctors, I had to learn how to become the roaring queen of balance. I had to decided how much striving was too much or too little. I began to understand my need for engaging my self-loving act of forgiveness over years of desperate dizzy whimpers plaguing my attempts to be creative. I had to overcome the disappointment of postponed moments as I relearned how to wash, watch tv, sit, crawl, dress, read, ride in a car, and everything else a traditional human achieves.
“Maybe I ain’t too old to start over. I think, and I laugh and cry at the same time at this. Cause just last night, I thought I was finished with everything new.”
-Kathryn Stockett, The Help.
I’d vomit again, clean it up again, be determined again and say, “I am an artist. I won’t stop fighting. This is not over Vertis! You may have won the battle today, but I swear I will win the war.”
I started fighting because if I did not, I would still have to live with vertigo tomorrow.
“It is Tuesday, change-the-damn-sheets day. If I do not do it today, that makes Wednesday change-the-damn-sheets day too.”-Kathryn Stockett, The Help
I craved to get to that ultimate goal of sitting in front of a canvas with rainbow gobs of paint. I required that feeling again – the one where I knew my creation was ready to go out into the world.
In late 2019, I finally found a team of doctors who had figured out why Vertis the vertigo vagrant was plaguing me. It turns out I had a virus in 2010 that screwed up my already wacky nervous system due to my learning disorders. They told me because of the virus; I lost my vestibular memory. That was why I could not keep my balance. They also said I was experiencing vertigo migraines in which I would experience dizziness instead of headaches. They said that very little is known about viruses like the one I experienced.
The real visual moment of victory came in the summer of 2013. My mother’s prayers had begun to be answered. She found me where I belong, in front of an easel, painting a three-year-old’s dreams onto a white canvass. Tom, silent and invisible, sat beside me as tears ran down our cheeks. He watched my mother kiss the top of my head. Whispered advice into my mother’s ear to which she said unto me, “Remember who you are.”
She handed me the photo and left me alone with Tom and a memory of a little girl who needed to paint until it was all okay-ed. The magical unicorn t-rex nodded his head, and his rainbow ribboned horn silently bumped the canvass so that the turpentine began to drip down a rainbow of pigment. I thought, “The canvass looks like it is crying too”. The turpentine slowly drip dripped tears down the ultramarine painted section of the canvas into the cotton yellow-green tarped floor. Tom whispered in my ear like the voice of God, “Where have you been?”
A tear fell down my cheek as I said, “I have been dreaming of you”.
The above was an essay written last year for my English class. I stumbled upon it again as I was preparing for my art show at the Cassio Metro Estate.
It gets me, still, how far I have come. How far I have left to go.
But moments like the one I had last Tuesday should not pass without some kind of marker. Now your part of that marker.
Thanks for the few moments of your time you take to read my rantings, hopes and dreams. To mark this small moment of victory. Your part of that gumption that gets me up in the morning.
A special thank you to my mother, my mentors, muses, and who have all contributed to the artist I am becoming. You matter beyond compare.
If you have the time, Come Visit or meet me for my Grand opening of Cavalli Corner ART Show on the 2nd of July. I hope to see you there!
Art as a Human Behavior- journal study
The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. 38, no. 4, 1980, p. 397. Wiley-Blackwell, DOI:10.2307/430321.
22 A. Storr, the dynamics of creation (London, 1972), P. 139.
As Long As You Love Me, Song lyrics
Sandberg, Martin Karl. “As Long as You Love Me.” Backstreet Boys, Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd. 29 Sept. 1997
Benefits of Play-website
Robinson, Lawrence Etc. “The Benefits of Play for Adults”. Help Guide. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/mental-health/benefits-of-play-for-adults.htm Last updated: June 2019.
Chickenlickens multiple fary tail versions:
Wikipedia contributors. Henny Penny. Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Oct. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henny_Penny.
Stockett, Kathryn. The Help. Reprint, Berkley, 2011.
Imagination Protects the Mind, Journal Study
Lahad, Mooli and Leykin, Dmitry. The Healing Potential of Imagination. Research Gate, February 2012. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286741895
Just Do It-Nickie Running Shoe Campaign
Dan Wieden. “Just Do It.” Wieden+Kennedy. Nikie advert, 1988.
tv commercials. “Nike - Just Do It (1988) - Very First Commercial.” YouTube, uploaded by tv commercials, 30 Aug. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yO7xLAGugQ.
The Lion King, The Movie
Mecchi, Irene, Roberts, Jonathan, and Woolverton, Linda. “The Lion King”. Allers, Roger and Minkoff, Rogers. Disney, Mouse works. 24 Jun. 1994.
GreenDayKate. “Mufasa Cloud Scene HD.” YouTube, uploaded by GreenDayKate, 4 Jun. 2011, www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYuyJ_3U7SM.
Matilda, The book and movie
Dahl, Roald, and Quentin Blake. Chapter 4 “The Ghost” Matilda. Illustrated, Puffin Books, 2007.
Kazan, Nicholas and Swicord, Robin “Matilda”. DeVito, Danny, TriStar Pictures Jersey Films, 2 Aug. 1996.
Color vision in ADHD- Study
Everyday Normal Guy Song
The Power of Rituals -Website
Fradera, Alex. “The Power of Rituals: they calm nerves and boost performance”. Research Digest. 25 Jan.25 Jan 2017. digest.bps.org.uk/2017/01/25/the-power-of-rituals-they-calm-nerves-and-boost-performance
Stephen Schwartz, Miss Gulch Theam tune sample
threewild1. “Miss Gulch.” YouTube, YouTube, 8 May 2008, www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4kiXh8YOzk.
TSore Thumb quote-
Gardner, Erle Stanley. Perry Mason novels. New York, William Morrow and Company, 1933 to 1973.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz- The book and Movie
Baum, Frank, and W. Denslow. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Illustrated First Edition): 100th Anniversary OZ Collection. Illustrated, SeaWolf Press, 2019.
Langley, Noel, et al. The Wizard of Oz. Metro Goldwyn Mayer Presents, 1939.