Living With my Art

by Rosemary Ollison, Artist, Mother, Art Teacher, Ex-wife

By means of my art I came to know my weakness and my strength. My art brought me from unsoundness to soundness mentally, emotionally, spiritually and even physically (I suffer from fibromyalgia and having less stress and anxiety in my life, I experience very little physical pain). My art also caused me to make major changes in my physical surroundings.

I lived in an efficiency apartment for 18 years and this was enough space for me until I started to paint and draw. I had cardboard cut to 60×64 and painted on them and I would buy large frames for them. At the end of three years, my little apartment was full and I mean f-u-l-l! During the same period of time, I was creating cloths, crazy quilts, purses and jewelry. I first made my creations part of my decorating scheme.

My creative imagination was out of control and soon I could not maintain order in my small space. Order is a must in my life, therefore, I became frustrated and stressed as the orderliness went out of the windows of my little apartment.

I felt like I was living in a sardine box. I felt cramped physically and mentally. Everything I created revealed a part of me that made me like myself and brought me alive. When I was creating I was no longer a walking dead woman. I wanted to see more and more of what God had placed in my creative imagination. My art was taking over my life. I had to create to keep alive but I had no more space.

I was working part time and I could have worked full time and made more money and moved to a larger apartment, but I loved my job and if I worked more hours I would not have time to create. I became envious of those around me who had the space I desired. Seeing what I was able to do made me feel better about myself; my self-esteem grew and caused me to feel that I deserved to have more. I became more and more frustrated and angry because I felt that I didn’t have space to extract all that was inside me struggling to be born. So I did what I do to “fix” whatever ails me. I CREATE! I expressed my feelings in this poem:

Space! Space! Space!

I must have space to grow

I am told that beauty resides within me

But unless it is allowed outside

how in the world am I to know

Like a peacock who’s tail has been cut and bound

not allowed to grow and spread

Trapped and enslaved in a space

not suitable for the living but only the dead

I am bound by man’s rules

They think I don’t have a mind of my own

My rights and my wrongs

should be what’s taught in their school

My rulers, those more powerful than I .

They make muddy the water I have to drink

They make bloody the streets I have to walk

They say I am not able to think

They condemn the way I talk

Now God’s grace is operating on me

The time is here, time to be sat free

The chains have been broken, I am free

I am unbound and seeking my space

In God’s grace I am growing

I am growing! I am growing! I am growing!

Move over I have got to have my space!

My niece allowed me to fill half of her basement with my art and supplies. So once again I was able to create. I created, created, and created until my apartment was full again. I needed more space and could move but I loved my apartment. I lived on the third floor and had seven large windows; I loved lying in bed looking at the stars and moon. I couldn’t stop creating. Once again my creations, especially the art, won. I moved.

I had to give away and leave over half of my things. I cried for months and even now after nine years it hurts me to think of all the things I had to give up. I gave up all my furniture except one piece I had embellished. All I took with me to my new apartment was boxes and boxes of my clothes, purses, shoes, jewelry, beads, hats, a large glass collection, fabric, some of my art and little things that I collected that were special to me.

I enjoyed shopping for new furniture and decorating my new apartment. I stopped painting and did only drawings with markers on paper, which posed no storage problem. I stored away five boxes of beads I had strung in my old apartment. Once again I started to string beads and make clothes. I enjoyed my new space. I was able to display my glass collection and use some of my art. But within five years, I was beginning to feel cramped, especially in my bedroom where I do all of my creating.

I had to find a way to use my creative imagination that would not require so much space. So I bought a computer, took computer classes and was introduced to the world of digital art! For the past six years, I have done most of my creating on my computer. I created over 8000 digital images. I have been journaling for the past 25 years, recording over 300 poems, 50 articles, and I wrote three books on my computer. I continue journaling every day and at present I am writing book proposals, articles and showing my art.

Making art has done much for me over the past 15 years; it has been used to heal me, given me great joy, and given me understanding and wisdom to live a meaningful life. But the last two years I have received something from my art that I did not expect. My art has taught me the happiness of sharing.

From my youth I was told that that the Bible says there is more happiness in giving than in receiving. To me these were just words that people used to get you to give something that you didn’t want to give. Secretly I felt guilty because I didn’t find joy in giving. I gave more than I wanted to because I was trying to find the happiness of giving the Bible spoke of.

I never imagined that I would find this happiness in my art. The first time I was asked to show my art to the public in a show I thought the individual had a problem. I thought, who would want to see this “crazy stuff”! I invited my co-workers to the show and they were very impressed and saw me as an artist. I had three showings and even won $300 for first prize animator artist. I lovingly embraced the $300 but not the title of artist. I became uninterested and did not participate in another art show until ten years later.

I considered and used my art as visual aids that God used as spiritual tools in the process of my emotional and spiritual healing. For ten year I was obsessed with my emotional and spiritual healing. Every three months I would take down all the art on my walls and replace them with a new lesson plan. For example; I would explore pain and suffering; another three months, I would put on the wall only pictures about fear and then power, and then enlightenment, and still another three months, empowerment. At the end of ten years I was HEALED!

The happiness of giving.

A friend invited me to join her organization “ABEA” (an art advocacy group comprised of artist and art supporters dedicated to contributing to cultural enrichment, by educating communities about African American art and artists). By attending meetings and participating in several shows, I at last saw myself as an “artist”!

I completely understood and appreciated the role that art played in my development in becoming a complete and fully functioning human being, but I had no idea that my art would become a gift to the world, or a tool in my experiencing the happiness of giving.

When I sold my first piece of art for $475, I thought this art thing ain’t too bad! Soon I learn that selling art is not so easy. I did not like all the effort and hard work that is involved in being in an art show. I soon learned that as you “move on up” in the art world more is required. I soon learned that I had to invest money to make money.

I have experienced making art for myself and making money for my art. And they both have been exciting and gratifying. But I am realizing that I truly am finding more happiness in giving what my art can do for individuals. Just yesterday I spoke with a dear friend and she told me how my art uplifts her spirit; she said that every day she looks at the pieces she has and they inspire her. Truly what greater happiness can there be!

Truly there is more happiness in giving than receiving! My art has provided me with so much to give!

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Last edited by Tyler Schuster.   Page last modified on June 13, 2010

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