Writer Ray Bradbury titled one of his short stories, “The Golden Apples of the Sun,” a lyrical line that has danced in my head for as long as I can remember. It comes from William Butler Yeats’ poem The Song of Wandering Aengus. Yeats composed three beautiful, short stanzas to describe a life of yearning, striving, and searching, all for an elusive desire.
Like the character Aengus, I’ve carried a lifetime of longing for a single thing: I’ve always wanted to be an artist.
During this process of unlocking myself as an artist, last November I wrote the following joyous plea to myself. In it, I remember how good it felt to be a creative child, and to be spellbound by both seeing and creating art.
You Always Wanted to Be an Artist
So why aren’t you being one?
Photography is great, it’s an art, you love it, you’re good at it …
But I expect more from you.
Painting, love you long time.
Since your youth, you’ve admired painters.
As a teen, you read their diaries and writings,
And spent your weekends—not at parties—but at
Art museums and galleries, looking at paintings.
On your wall, you hung posters and post cards of, yes, paintings.
Then, you stole a book. Sort of.
It was the first library book about the Impressionists you saw,
And you didn’t return it.
(Paying for it later, it still sits on your shelf.)
When new exhibits came around, you were there,
Eating all the beauty and wonder with your eyes.
You looked at every single piece of art
In every single museum
Available to you,
You made an effort to understand modern art,
Even when you couldn’t.
You have always wanted to be an artist.
(Also, a poet, a writer, a dancer, even an actor.)
But you’ve always wanted to use your hands
To make art.
To lose yourself in making art. You used to do that, remember?
Remember that feeling of being lost in creating.
And before insecure people visited their shortcomings on you.
(Before the jealous friend made you hide your light,
And an ex told you weren’t being an artist the right way—as if!
Before you learned how little most artists make,
And before, before …)
Forget all that!
Remember these instead:
Being a child lost in drawing, coloring books, paint-by-numbers,
And book-corner animations. Those times when
You copied drawings, drew animals from photos;
Drew what you saw at church, instead of listening.
Drew from sculptures and paintings.
Painted from paintings. Photographed paintings…
Set aside persecution, cast off doubt.
Step away from the experiences and people
That drove you away from something you loved
—And still love—
Though it might seem hard to find that love
Without shame and fear of judgement.
But! The creative person inside loves you, and is smiling.
She remembers that pleasure of losing yourself
By immersing yourself in art.
Remember, too, what you mused over as a child?
The things your mind and imagination touched on,
Ruminated over, wondered about?
It’s time to touch base with that musing nature again.
To be free to meander and
Look and muse, explore and muse,
Walk and muse, read and muse,
Just to look at things,
Look look look and muse.
Find your muse.
To rediscover your many muses, work with them,
Let them stir you, rouse you.
After all, you’ve always wanted to be an artist.
I know you can remember that feeling,
Finding wonder in the things surrounding you.
Light bouncing golden off the pavement,
And how it glowed on a wall.
The sound of rustling leaves, and wondering,
What does the source of the wind looked like?
A turn of phrase in a book that carried you,
Inspired, into a daydream.
That is what it was like,
To be lost in creating.
It was sensual, magical, mystical, delightful.
Remember that feeling.
You loved it.
While creating, time was timeless.
You were in the moment,
Not in any story
Other than the story of the moment.
That moment was golden, innocent,
Connected to nothing but self and doing,
Doing and ether, ether and mystery, the mystery of how.
How the ability came, how the inspiration arrived,
How the marks made the results.
Because it is a mystery, it’s a knowing without knowing how.
You’ve known it was born in you, never to be taken away,
Something that will live in you for as long as you live.
And because of your knowledge now, you know it’s
Part of ancestry, a thread that goes back beyond history.
No wonder you always wanted to be an artist!
So now that you can remember,
It’s nearing the time to work through what’s happened,
One way or another.
To pull that thread through the eye,
Unravel the knot that blocks its passage,
Do what it takes to see your imagination and creation come forth.
And, soon enough, it will be time to do the work. So…
- Then work through.
- Then do the work.
One step at a time, though.
Right now, let’s just remember that ART FEELS GOOD.
After Being Reminded that I Always Wanted to Be an Artist
The night I wrote that, I slept like a baby.
Subsequently, I’ve done a lot more writing, which has taken me back to good memories, times I felt connected, safe, and loved. Conversely, I’ve recalled difficulties, explored why I’ve been stuck, and scribbled or typed raw expressions of frustration. Sometimes I’ve ruminated on the quizzical nature of other people, and their impacts on me.
These forays into the past have often been streams of consciousness, letting whatever-it-is pour out of me, going wherever it will, and carrying me along.
Surprisingly, expressing myself to myself has proven to be less emotionally heavy than I had feared. For years, decades, I’d shy away because I thought something dark would come out.
Instead, I’m finding light. Often I feel energized rather than dragged down, even in the midst of revisiting negative experiences. Within, there is a sense of fortitude and healing.
Best of all, I feel movement, and that movement is forward.
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