Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Art of Sincerity and Authenticity

Recently I heard someone state that their belief was that "the universe always rewards authenticity and sincerity in our personal and creative work". While that statement did not come as an epiphany or shed any immediate light on my own thoughts, over the last month it has worked itself into my subconscious and I find myself now writing and thinking about it, and how it relates to my life overall, almost daily.

I cannot say or try to describe what that means for anyone else or even where one would begin to follow that path inthemselves, I just know that, looking back acros 40 years of creating, it rings 100% true in my world.

In retrospect, so much of what I tried to do creatively in my 20's and 30's was not quite either of those things. I felt that I had to find my angle, my way in, my one great idea or concept. All the while ignoring the places I truly came from and knew so well in my heart. Also, I totally bought into the idea of my work having to be "grown up" and to project a mature viewpoint or an adult perspective. I'd at least like to say that while I feel the work I created was always sincere, it usually lacked the personal authenticity that I find people most respond to these days with my creative offerings.

What I have come to understand is that I only really began allowing myself to be completely authentic with my work a few years ago and, with that, came the growth and means to now create for a living.

So I have been listing every possible example of this authentic and sincere approach from my life. Trying to follow it back to the roots of my origins and where my best examples of it came from, mapping it like a travelogue.

A polestar for my creative heart.

In 7th grade there was a boy named Timothy Jackson who sticks out in my mind. While may of us were trying so hard to be cooler or to at least not stick out as easy marks to the bullies, Timothy went about his days just being Timothy. He was an A student who never missed school or an assignment. Over that year we grew to become passing friends and we bonded over what I learned was Timothy's free-time passion. Drawing superheroes, super-villains, medieval worlds, spaceships, aliens and then, sort of out of context, all out army battles on regular lined notebook paper. Stick figure soldiers mostly populated those but the time was put into complex and well-thought-out landscapes, waponry, castles, fortresses, space stations and alien worlds with detailed terrain, battle simulations and situations. I had noticed Timothy often drawing something when he was done with class assignments. . .  and at lunch . . . and at assemblies. . . and in homeroom. . . and after school in the library.  He was far too smart and too much of a loner to be bullied and too nerdy to be "cool". He was invisible, untouchable, an alien himself to most.

Of course, looking back, he was the coolest kid of all in hindsight.

As we became friends, I took to sharing in this drawing with him and, for most of that year, we were always comparing images and battles waged.  We lived too far apart to get together out of school but we found time during the week to share ot drawings and great epic stories told on paper.  In 8th grade we shared just one class and then, on different buses sent across town to a school of 3000 kids for high school, we rarely saw each other.  But the impression, as I now am understanding, was left just the same.

He is one of the few people I recall clearly from that time that I have nothing but love for in my heart's memory. Authentic. Sincere. Just Timothy being himself every moment. Lost in what I now call a "paracosm".

When I return home, as I did last year for a few days, I can't help but go by the old school which is closed and listed for sale now. The neighborhood is just a shell of what it once was in it's heyday.

The old soda fountain pharmacy. Gone
Steel Mill. Gone.
The old homemade Apple Butter ad painted on the side of the brick post office, Gone.
The little market. Gone.
Five and Dime. Gone.
The Hot sausage sandwich shop. Gone.
Library. Gone.  . . well, moved. But no longer in the old gothic brick building that made it a welcoming and timeless place.

An abandoned school is a haunting sight. Sit on those steps and close your eyes and it seems like there is the echoes of laughter and nervous chatter on the wind. So many impressions left behind on those playgrounds along the way.

So much of it seems like a blur. two years in that middle school with so few friends and each day, for the most part, an eye on the clock waiting to be done for the day so I could head home to MY paracosm and my own world of creation. My own authenticity.

It's really only now, all these years later that I am thinking back and realizing how few people I knew then that were living in authenticity and sincerity then. School years are usually about anything but as we try so hard to grow up so fast and become. . . what exactly?

All I can say is that everything I do today. All that you see in my shops and in my work is drawn from those early days exploring my own inner world and creating this paracosm that I have returned to. That I thrive in.   

And I just want to add that authenticity and sincerity are not just about creative work of course.

My grandfather, during those two years of middle school. and all four years of high school, rose every day at 4 a.m. (as he had done for 35 years for his job at the the steel mill) to make sure I had breakfast before school. During the middle school years, since the school was just three blocks away, I'd walk home each day at lunch, which he always had waiting for me upon arrival.

That, in my memory, is about the most devoted example of sincerity and authenticity as I can show.  That was who he was to his core.

I hope all of you are exploring and expressing and embracing what is natural, sincere and authentic in your own souls. FInding it in your past or present and carrying it with you into the future.

It will, undoubtedly, serve you well.