“If people were told they could write whatever they wanted, then probably everyone would be able
to write. I still remember struggling to write essays in elementary school — it was so painful.
Back then, I didn’t believe I could write anything I wanted. Even quiet people have words
spilling from their hearts.”
~*~ Shigesato Itoi ~*~
I wish I had had a teacher that was this wise.
There’s a story I have often told my students and it bears repeating here. In the first grade we had a very strict old nun for art — how they assign these things baffles me still — and one day as we sat coloring our pictures on a Friday afternoon she grabbed my paper up off of my little desk, looked at me angrily and said, “You’ll never be an artist, just look at this.” As she said this she turned around and laughing, not kindly, held my picture up in front of the class. My little picture was a cautionary tale, You had better not color your tree trunks pink, the leaves purple, the sky yellow, the sun blue, the grass magenta… And with that she tore up my picture and walked over it.
I did not try to draw again for 53 years.
On the eve of my 59th birthday I sat down and, holding my breath, drew the first of my 100 Ladies, who led the way into what would become The 100 Ladies Project. I haven’t stopped drawing them since…
And the thing is, the secret little dream that I have always had has been to write and illustrate books, not for children, but for adults. I have started and stopped many times, I, the quiet person with words and pictures spilling from her heart.
One day, not too long ago, I realized that every lady I drew sort of looked like the same person. As I kept drawing she looked more and more like herself, like me, but not me, she became Tallulah. I wrote about this just days ago here, about the advent of Tallulah, but even then I felt too shy to trust it. Today I said out loud, finally, and in groups of artists and writers that I admire and respect, that I am going to combine writing and art to help people understand the life of someone who is bi polar — “This is my goal, to help people realize that this can be bitingly painful, unbelievably hard, but there is joy too, and there is love, and there are rainbows even if they are a bit wobbly and lopsided, and there are ways to survive the hardest times even when you don’t think you can.” I want so much to write it all.
And as a bi polar writer and artist it is the art that saves me. When your brain’s bits and parts become unbalanced and you do things that are not such a great idea and don’t serve you well, or you are flat out and sinking with depression, words can be hard but art carries you. I can be completely incapable of uttering a word but I can still draw and not only can I draw but the act of making art in any form — this has always been true of fiber art for me as well — is a way to mend those bits and parts back together, the way I have found to make me all of a piece and more balanced. At my worst if I can pick up a pen or brush or pastel and just get my hand moving across the page, once I feel that forward motion something in me finally takes a deep breath and begins to relax.
Quiet people have so very much spilling from their hearts.
Sometimes I will be having a hard day that teeters between fluttering mania and profound depression. I can’t muster up much but Tallulah will peek up at me from a corner…
And all of a sudden a caption will come to mind… “Tallulah cut her own hair. This did not especially serve her well.”
Sometimes Tallulah is funny, sometimes she has a wry sense of humor, and sometimes she is very sad, but it all comes out in the wash some way or another and drawing Tallulah is an adventure. As I said to someone today, “Tallulah is much bolder than I am and she has gotten me into trouble more than once.” I love this about her. It is like having a secret friend and someone to talk to, or talk through, to share something that feels so important and close to my heart.
In the end, I’m not sure that I can write this book but I know Tallulah can, she is a force to be reckoned with and she will keep me going, or I will hold her hand to walk through the hard parts. I always felt so alone before like I was just drawing the ladies and enjoying it but it never seemed real until Tallulah came and now we are on our way.
In closing I want to ask you to hold that quote at the top close to your heart. Remember that you can write what you want to write the way that you want to write it, and you can draw what is in your heart even if it doesn’t look like you thought it was supposed to, it is coming out of you so cherish it, respect it, love it, and DO it. If not, why not? If not now, when?
It’s time. That’s what Tallulah and I want you to know today…