drawing

Objects, Animals and the Art of Taking Requests

002

Sharing the experience of art with a group of inner city kids

is how my husband and I spend our Monday evenings.

We sit elbow to elbow with those beautiful young artists

talking and drawing together.

 

Often, the kids will make requests..

asking us to draw a particular

animal or object..

We are always happy to comply.

So we draw spaceships and unicorns

insects and dinosaurs

Tinkerbell and octopi.

It’s good practice for us as artists..

a test of speed and skill.

 

I am always deeply touched when

of all the wondrous things in their vast and limitless imaginations,

the kids choose to draw us..

sometimes, with an octopus.

 

drawing

 

Small Moments and the Art of Tremendous Consequences

"Metamorphosis" by Michele Bledsoe

“Metamorphosis” by Michele Bledsoe

I remember making a book when I was little.

I vaguely recall the story had something to do with a family of animals living near a beach.

I made drawings of weird dog-like creatures on pieces of paper that I folded to look like pages.

When I showed it to my grandfather

He knelt down so we were face-to-face

And looking directly into my eyes

He said to me:

“Michele, you have a gift from God.”

 

Believe me, the drawing wasn’t THAT good…

Sure, I drew recognizable objects

But that’s a far cry from being like some child prodigy drawing like Michelangelo at the age of 4.

 

Did he see something I didn’t?

Was it a glimpse of the artist I would become..

or was it something else?

 

My husband I volunteer to teach art

To a group of inner city kids in downtown Phoenix.

A couple of days ago

Something beautiful happened.

 

Surrounded by kids,

talking and drawing together

at a crowded table..

I saw a small boy.

so small, and quiet

he practically disappeared.

His tiny head was bent down

intensely focused

on the drawing in front of him.

 

I glanced at what he was working on

and I felt time stop.

All the chaos in the room

faded into the background.

There was something different about this child.

Something rare and beautiful.

I saw it.

Felt it.

And in that

seemingly small and insignificant moment..

I understood that there was something tremendous

in consequence

that brought me here.

 

“That is a great brontosaurus, “I told him

“and what a terrific volcano!”

The boy looked up..

clearly surprised that I noticed him..

that I was talking to him.

“You draw really well,” I continued

“I can see your wonderful imagination

in your drawings.”

With a tiny smile, and light in his eyes

The boy whispered. “Thank you.”

I asked him his name..

“Jesus.” He replied.

I leaned in real close so we were face to face..

And looking directly into his eyes, I said,

“Jesus, you have a gift from God.”

Imaginary Boxes and the Art of Unwrapping Gifts

"Soliloquy" by Michele Bledsoe

“Soliloquy” by Michele Bledsoe

Imagine a box wrapped in many layers of colorful paper..

taped shut

tied up in ribbons

and topped with an elaborate bow.

There is something wonderful inside,

but you have to open the gift in order to get to it.

That wonderful thing hidden beneath all that wrapping paper

is the artist you were meant to be.

The way to open that gift is to keep drawing pictures.

Keep making art,

and never stop.

Remember

without you, the gift is nothing..

and a bicycle cannot ride itself.

Pencils, Paper and the Power of Art

One of the kids took this picture... I need to keep my feet of the table when I draw.

One of the kids took this picture… I need to keep my feet off the table when I draw.

As a volunteer art teacher
I am back to spending Monday evenings
sharing the experience of art
with a group of inner-city kids.

My art class is probably not what you’d expect to see..
Nothing spectacular, really.

Basically, we just show up
grab a bunch of paper and pencils
fling the door open wide
sit down
and start drawing.

Slowly
the kids trickle in..
and one by one
they sit down and join us.

Soon, we are elbow to elbow
drawing together.
We talk, we laugh,
we share experiences..

No paints or pastels
No paintbrushes or easels
No scissors, glitter and glue
No elaborate materials or expensive supplies.
No preconceived projects
or instructions to follow..
yet somehow
a lesson unfolds.

So, what is this amazing thing
that draws all those kids into our room
And holds their attention…?

Such is the power of art.

michele quote

Anthropomorphic Worms and the Art of Quiet Conversation

klingon

“Every new friend is a new adventure.. the start of more memories.” Patrick Lindsay

 

My husband and I volunteer to teach art to a group of inner city kids in downtown Phoenix.

Since we have been doing this for a couple of years now,

we see a lot of familiar faces..

but we always leave the classroom door wide open

for anyone new who wants to join us.

 

Last night, I was sitting at a table, drawing

when a group of rambunctious boys

came shouting and stumbling into the room.

I did not raise my voice..

I did not say, “Be quiet!”

I did not tell them to “Settle down!”

I did not stand up..

and I did not stop drawing.

Almost immediately, the boys came over to where I was sitting..

and I smiled at them.

“It’s easier to draw when it is quiet.” I said softly.

Then the boys took one look at the bizarre anthropomorphic worm creature I was working on

and immediately sat down at the table with me.

They were so intrigued by the weird imaginary creature I had created..

They asked questions, made comments

and the conversation grew and grew.

We talked and laughed…

pretty soon, we were all happily drawing together.

One boy suggested I add a pair of wings to my monstrosity, which I did.

Unfortunately, I do not have a picture to show you

because I gave it away.

Such is the power of art.

 

Lifetime Commitments and the Full Circle of Art

sketchbook1

When I was little, all I wanted was to draw well.

My dream was not to be some rich and famous artist..

Not to win awards or have my paintings hanging in museums.

I just wanted to be good.

I remember staring endlessly at the pictures of the beautifully illustrated books I grew up with.  The people who made those pictures had somehow managed to capture their imagination on paper and make it real. My mind was filled with pictures, too – and there were worlds inside me that had to come out. The urge to create was irresistible.. and it ignited a fire inside me that will burn forever.

Exposure to art at an early age is a powerful experience. It can change your life. My husband Richard talks about this in his recent post, The Fine Art of Childhood.

Art is a lifetime commitment. The endless months, years, decades invested to get my skills to match my vision. Always pushing further – I love every step of my artistic journey. This is what I was meant to do. I have dedicated my life to bringing my unique vision out into the light. Truly, art is the soul made visible.

It seems only fitting that I have become the author / illustrator of children’s books..

After all, that is where it all began.

The circle is complete.

 

Seemingly Random Objects and the Remarkable Mystery of Art

room 237

“Room 237” by Michele Bledsoe

The title of this painting is kind of an inside joke my husband and I share.

Room 237 is a documentary we watched one evening.. a film that explores a bunch of weird theories about the secret meaning found in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 movie, The Shining.

The documentary was pretty ridiculous..

but when I finished this painting, I understood the connection.

I don’t plan out my paintings.

No preconceived ideas. No preliminary sketches.

I just sit in front of a blank canvas and start drawing.

A strange thing happens when you work this way..

you become a conduit.

Those seemingly random objects form a mysterious language of symbols. On the surface, a painting may appear to be very simple and straightforward… but underneath, it communicates on a much deeper level. Far greater than the sum of its parts – art explores the shared experience of the human condition.

So, I am not going to dissect my painting, examining each separate element, providing a simple explanation for every individual object it contains..

It doesn’t work that way.

Art is not a puzzle to be solved..

it is a mystery to be contemplated.

Such is life.

Learning to Glow and the Art of Kindness by Proxy

nov3

One night at our art class, I handed out glow bracelets to all the young artists who came to draw with us.

A young girl wanted to light up ALL the bracelets at once

but I said “No”

I wanted to save them for the other kids, I explained.

“Oops!” she said, looking at me

and accidentally (on purpose) cracked one of the bracelets – causing it to glow.

She was testing my boundaries (as kids will do)..

and I smiled.

“Well, now you have to do a job for me,” I told her..

“Take that bracelet, go outside

and when you see someone walking alone – give it to them.”

The little girl jumped up and ran outside to complete her mission.

Inside, one of the kids looked at me and said,

“That’s a really nice thing you did.”

I said, “That’s a really nice thing Perla is going to do.”

 

Teachers, Art and Things That Last Forever

copper29

When I was a child I would spend hours quietly playing by myself. Endlessly entertained by my wild imagination – I would stay up all night long drawing pictures. I was weird and solitary. My best friend was a dog.

School was difficult for intense, introverted kids like me.

It is so easy to become lost..

Sometimes, forever.

I don’t remember much from those days.. after all, that was over 40 years ago.

But I remember Mrs. Kelly – my elementary school art teacher.

Mrs. Kelly would sit next to me and quietly marvel over the drawings I made. Afterwards, she would put them in the glass display case in the hall outside her class – for all the world to see.

Now, volunteering to teach art to a group of inner city kids – I find myself drawn to the introverts. The quiet kids sitting alone.. trying to disappear into the background.  I sit next to them. I draw with them. I speak quietly with them – and I marvel over the drawings they make.

If you are a teacher and think you do not make a difference – you are wrong.

You make all the difference in the world.

The time you give to your students can literally change the course of their lives. Your kindness and encouragement will echo inside them, and will continue to touch the lives of others forever.

Your reach is further than you can imagine.

Thank you, Mrs. Kelly… wherever you are.

I never got the chance to tell you that I love you.

Catfish Kittens, Snakes and Exploding Hearts

snake

Last week at our art class there was a quiet little boy sitting by himself at a table.

He looked hurt somehow.. there was such a sad look on his face.

When it was getting close to the end, I coaxed him over and asked him to show me what he was drawing. Wow, what a talented artist he is! He made a beautiful picture of an octopus, a flower and a golden pyramid.

I showed him my drawing of a weird fish wearing a crown swimming next to a “catfish”… with the head and paws of a cat and the tail of a fish.

The little boy’s eyes got big.. his mouth twitched a little – but he didn’t say a word.

So, I asked him “Do you think catfish have kittens?”.. and the biggest smile on earth practically split his face in two. It lit up the room like the sun.

I gave that drawing to him.

When class was over, he stayed late to help us put away all the pencils and paper. I thanked him for helping us clean up.

Yesterday, the boy returned to draw with us again. When class was over, he handed me his drawing of a beautiful, polka-dotted snake and whispered, “This is for you.”

Sometimes I think my heart is going to explode.