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Encouragement for the Hidden Artist

alec vanderboom

There is something about the "hidden" artist with a reputable full time job that is a little forlorn. One of the most cruel things I ever did as a new wife (unintentionally, I might add!), was drag my husband to an art show for attorneys during an annual State Bar Conference in the middle of his studies for a Masters in Fine Arts Degree.

The Attorney Art Show was so pathetic. There were were about 30 canvases of oil paintings and water color paper, unevenly tacked up with thumb tacks on a burlap boards in the center of the room. Most of the paintings were so bad, they hurt my eyes. In the back of the room there was this huge cheese tray (I practiced law in Wisconsin after all) with meat, and nuts and white wine. There was a knot of about 250 people gaily chatting by the food tray.

Not one person stood by the Art Show Display.

Except for my husband!

Fortified by I guess, four years of Student Critiques in Art Class, my husband slowly and methodically looked at each and every piece of art. He stood looking at the paintings, long after I cringed away in discomfort and went to get us drinks from the wine bar.

As I was coming back with our two glasses of chardonnay, (Baby, we were such newlyweds, I didn't even know yet that you preferred red wine back then!) I saw my husband talking with another attorney in front of painting. When I got up close, I realized with a start that my husband was talking with the artist himself! The artist of what I considered a really, really novice work. "What is Jon going to say?" I thought.

God bless him, my husband never lied. He never said one compliment about that painting that wasn't true. My husband, the professionally trained artist, was completely authentic and completely encouraging. His words even had me reexamine the work and think "I guess there is more going on there than I thought!" Then I thought immediately, "I really don't like it. That guy should just keep practicing law and keep painting as a hobby."

My judgmental heart took a beating when I made eye contact with the attorney/artist. Remember the Scripture passage where the woman tells Jesus "Even the dogs are fed from the scraps of the table?" This man's eyes were so hungry for positive feedback from his artwork. His eyes had he hungry, grateful look of a sweet cocker spaniel begging for table scrapes. This man easily had 30 years on my husband. His suit said that he made "real money." Yet I could see that this man was in a desert artistically. There was no one who talked kindly about his artwork in his life. He looked at my husband with unfamiliar awe and wonder.

I sipped my wine from about 6 feet away and reevaluated my opinion. "Anyone who looks that grateful when a total stranger talks about his use of Color Theory deserves to be a painter. I wish him well!"

I remembered this story when I burst out laughing at this list of "politico thrillers" from sitting members of Congress from Booklist today.

Just the intro from author Irene Cooper made me laugh. She titled her piece "Washington Insiders Who'd Rather Be Writing,"

Considering how little Congress and the White House get done, perhaps it’s not surprising that some of the folks wandering around Washington, D.C., have time to dash off a novel or two in their spare time. And, surrounded as they are by greed, corruption, and character assassination (if not actual murders), why wouldn’t they write about crimes, political and otherwise? Getting a book published is obviously easier than getting a bill passed.

I'm not sure why it is that the fact that both Barbara Boxer and Barbara Mikulski wrote novels makes me laugh so hard. I just think its so cute.

I'm determined to read every book on this list, even if some are really bad. After all, its the effort that mattes, as my kind husband taught me long ago. Getting every writer to write, can only be better for the whole economy overall.