Friday, February 12, 2016

Anthropology: Becoming an Artist

Anthropologie, the whimsical, artistic brand of clothing and home accessories was one I admired from afar, but hadn't bought anything simply because they don't carry plus sizes (I think the largest I've seen in stores was XL). That is, not till this season when I saw their ponchos and decided that they might fit me just right - and they did, despite the fact that they are marked as either L or XL, the cut is so generous, it easily will accommodate quite a range of sizes and body shapes, which are, along with the warmth and coziness, some of the great characteristics of this type of clothing.

My first Anthro poncho was the olive striped piece. The funny thing is, that day I was wearing a poncho, also a striped one, but as soon as I saw this greenish/brownish number... I won't say "I fell in love", though you could say that too... but it was something more than simply falling for a beautiful thing. I felt rather deeply that I was meeting a side of me that had been hiding or maybe even deprived before that. It is not an intellectual process, at least to me, to learn who you are. Intellectually, I knew I was a reliable, responsible, hard-working, educated person who had a creative side and was constantly, eagerly searching for something.  

I remember as a child, I was often praised for my imagination. My grandmother used to say I was the most interesting of her grandchildren and tell stories about my early childhood, how I would make the family sit on the sofa and be my audience. I'd wear my aunt Lida's brown floral dress (it was 1970s, imagine a colorful, silky feminine number) which was a mini on her and a maxi on the 4 year old me, maybe even her heels if I got lucky (I once broke Mom's heels during such a "performance"), and walked from under the big round oak table, using a heavy plush table cloth of rich burgundy color, with golden fringe, as a theatrical curtain. I'd sing a song, bow and make them clap. Even now, almost 40 years later, I still hear them laughing and applauding. 

Earlier still, at about the age of two, I showed up in a room with a big sun on my tummy which I drew with a pen, a gazillion rays of sun coming from my navel, so close together, my aunt Nina, Mom's late older sister, a mother of two herself and a teacher who saw hundreds of kids in her years of teaching young children, could not believe how much time and energy I took to deliver my "message"... I don't remember myself that young, but I do understand why I did it - when it's that important to you, you don't care how much time or energy it takes. You just work, you persevere, to the point of obsession. Those tiny glimpses into my childhood are precious to me - as they help me to realize something fundamental about myself.

Later on, there were poems and stories, dancing, knitting, sewing, later yet creating my own businesses - which is, as I discovered, an extremely creative and even artistic process, though with certain built-in limitations, by definition. I have been creative, but all of that was somewhat on the side. First, I had to be that reliable, responsible "good girl" - always first. And then, if I still had time, energy, interest and courage... then I could give myself permission to create, almost at random. Looking back at my childhood, I realize that I was raised with a mixed message - on the one hand, I was left to myself and was free to do whatever I wanted to do. On the other hand, the expectation was that I get a "normal" education and then a "normal" job etc., etc. I got acceptance, but no guidance. I got some encouragement, but not active support. In my mind, art became not as important - something to do with your spare time, when your homework was done. Good girls don't need long explanations - we get it. 

You can be anything you want, and you absolutely can be both reliable and artistic, that's not the point. The point is that if you are an artist by nature, a free spirit, an explorer, you cannot put those things aside as something you do as a hobby. You have to take this side of you seriously, nurture it, listen to those who actually understand it, surround yourself with other artists - I am using the term "artist" in a wide, general sense, not necessarily in a sense of visual arts only. You have to, or you will get sick, you will get confused, you will get disoriented, you will start resenting the world around you, resenting life itself.

 And if your upbringing, even the most loving and accepting one, as my family and friends have been, was not one which was able to guide you in becoming who you really are, then you need to start nurturing yourself, learn about the artistic process on your own, by trial and error, the way little kids do it. At this point, our society has created, maintained and promoted many more tools to get those "normal" educations and jobs, to choose that "normal" path in life. It does not mean that there are no tools or means to raise artists; there are - but they are not as numerous or as widely known, which is somewhat understandable. Those who raised us, kids with a strong artistic side, just couldn't meaningfully support that side of us - because they did not know themselves. 

What could my parents, both born and raised in far away villages in the middle of nowhere, a good boy and a good girl themselves, possibly know about raising artists? Yes, they were encouraging, especially to my brother Andrei, as his talent was more obvious - he as a little boy could draw a picture not many adults knew how to do. They praised us, but mostly they cared about surviving, which is not surprising given the history of my home country. Yet, both being sensitive and creative themselves, my parents got two strongly artistic children who have been struggling in our extremely practically oriented world, which accepts creativity as hobbies, no problems there. But what to do with those weirdos like us who must live the creative life every day - the world hasn't really figured us out yet. So we were and are mainly on our own. I remember "advising" my older brother to pursue visual arts as a career, but he thought he was not "good enough". When it was time to pick my own education, it never even occurred to me to look into arts. I knew I was a good writer, but I thought it has to be an applied skill - just a part of my job, whatever it would be. As a result, I chose to study arts as a theoretical field, not as a way of working and living. That is why I now love asking questions about how people become artists, what is their journey, what is that mystical creative process which I have to learn on my own, day by day. I do not mind - I am self-taught in many different ways, and I enjoy the process. It does get lonely though.

But at first, before starting to nurture yourself as an artistic soul, you have to recognize that that's who you are. It might be obvious even to some strangers, or some people in your immediate circle, and not obvious to yourself. At first, you feel so wobbly, like a toddler learning his first steps, curious and not really sure of his abilities yet. Stick with it. Recognize that that's who you are. Honor who you are. Rely on those rare people who offers their support in this uneasy, clunky process. Do not doubt yourself. Love who you are until you won't need support any more. That's what I realized when I bought my first Anthropologie poncho. As silly as it might seem to some! I realized that I always, for many years of my life, nurtured the "good girl" inside of me, and did not really honor the artist, or if I did, I honored it sporadically, almost randomly, and it is reflected even in my wardrobe. Wearing that poncho awoke the sense of freeing myself and honoring who I really am.

Both ponchos - Anthropologie
Blue jeans (old) - Lane Bryant
Yellow jeans (old) - Ashley Stewart
Boots (old) - Born
Flats (old) - AGL
Jewelry - Chaos NY, Chico's, eBay 
Hat, purse - boutique finds

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  1. How interesting to read about how you came to accept your artist self. I was surprised that it wasn't your first, obvious identity as you seem so at ease with it now.
    I've always seen myself as an artist of some sort, and most of my life I've been writing. And I tried to make my family see me that way, too, constantly seeking their approval for my artistic ambitions (as a child I wanted to be an actor or a writer, then I studied fashion design). I never got this approval, or encouragement, but my family sort of saw it all as a hobby I would grow out of. It was just exhausting trying to get people take me seriously, like banging my head against a wall. In retrospect I wish I'd just done whatever I wanted and stopped looking for approval, or 'permission' to pursue my dreams... But this good girl finally got tired of constantly looking for approval and just gave up, got a boring job that (barely) pays the bills and makes her miserable. Sad, huh? Now I'm learning to be a bad girl because bad girls don't ask for permission and just do what they want.

  2. What a compliment form your Grandmother.For someone to be told they are interesting means you carry an allure that is escaped by the bland and vanilla of the world. those are lovely ponchos-I found one back in November and I feel like it is a big hug whenever I wear it.

  3. Natalia, your words are so lively, lovely and exactly what I needed to read for such a time as this. Feeling lonely, somewhat frightened and unsure of this new life I've embraced. Wanting a sign from the heavens that I'm indeed on the right path. Yet I know, to take another "job" would be to my detriment. I am an artist. Creating stories from words gives me life...and so does Anthropologie (smile). My Mom discovered Anthropologie and said to me, "I've found the perfect, quirky store for you." That was over 25 years ago. I still love them dearly. I feel inspired to create when I go into the store...I feel like I belong.

    You look beautiful in the ponchos. They were meant for you.

  4. It's funny how you need to meet yourself. I was always musical but never really called myself artistic.
    Our family always created so I thought it was normal. Someone once said "you're the most creative person I know"! I was stunned!
    Your artistic side is well represented in these gorgeous ponchos. So warm and snuggly.
    I'm glad you are seeing your true self come to life. Each baby step we stand on leads to the next one and soon we can see!
    I can see where Anya's talents come from. You have been able to nurture her as you weren't able to be. What an achievement.
    I hope I can do the same with my boys.
    Xo Jazzy Jack

  5. wow! the ponchos found you! you look so cool - love the yellow flowers!!!!
    no mixed messages for me - my only option was to be a "good girl" - homey, nice, almost invisible. but i´m rebellious. lived a artists life since 20 - wild and poor. :-)
    now i´m exhausted. waiting for something......
    much love! xxxxx

  6. Love who you are ... Yes! ♥️
    Thanks for the lovely stories about your childhood and realizing to be an artist.
    I'm a good girl, no artist. hmm sometimes boring.
    Your ponchos look great. Good that you sell them. I know Anthropologie and I'm sad that there is no plussize.
    Have a great Sunday, kisses Tina

  7. Both ponchos are wonderful on you, but I especially like the splashy floral one in mustard/yellow.
    So much reflection, prompted by a poncho, it's great! As for me, I don't consider myself creative in the least, I wish I had more skills in artistic areas but I just don't. I sometimes also wish I could say that I had followed a conventional path of making the most of my education and getting a well-paid career instead, but somehow that hasn't happened either! Ah well. I guess I am just making it up as I go along, and that's OK too. Xxx

  8. I love both of them, they're both beautiufl and very you.
    Many people assume I'm an artist 'cos of how I dress. If putting an outfit together or making a great meal from leftovers counts are being creative them that's me. As for writing, drawing or making music then no! xxx

  9. what you wrote about being an artist is so deep and wise. It is not something that can be sat aside as a hobby...for an artist, art is often so energy confusing that it makes us drained and tired. It is not like a hobby that you take up to make yourself relaxed. It is important to understand it because artists often feel guilt just because they use so much of their energy for art...but that is the way it is.

    I always love reading about your childhood. Imagination is something that develops so early on, isn't it?

    I really like both ponchos! You look great dear.