In all things, there is a silver lining. My mother’s funeral was an opportunity to see my old art teacher and his wife, Ed and Linda Buttwinick. Many decades ago, after getting kicked out of a company that I started (Mizanne GolfWear), my business school mentor at UCLA suggested that I take an art class as therapy. His wife was an artist and took classes at Brentwood Art Center nearby.
Dutifully, I trotted off to Brentwood Art Center, asking for Ed Buttwinick. Ed ran the art side of the school, teaching and hiring all the teachers. His wife ran the administration side with the help of a few full-time employees. I relayed that I was seeking an art class based on the suggestion of my business school advisor. Ed heard the words “business school” and immediately proposed a swap: business advice for their school for art classes. I signed up for the life drawing class that he taught, and thus began a wonderful healing period of my life.
Brentwood Art Center, was in fact, well run but Linda craved some tightening up of procedures and some ideas to maximize what they could do with their space. We spent lovely afternoons together noshing at her house while creating a procedures manual for operations. We came up with weekend workshops that I partook in. It did help that I was taking classes — as many as 3 a week — so I could see their business up close and personal.
But it was also such a healing time for me. In this warm embrace of a family business, Ed and Linda took especial pains to thank me repeatedly for my time and ideas. The impact, they insisted, was huge. But I still believe that this was a well-run school so it was easy to make incremental improvements.
After about a little over a year, I ended up moving to Boston with my husband to return to my own company Aquent. It was not easy to find another art school that was so wonderfully warm and so creatively challenging. I tried a few things here and there but I ended up putting art on hold after the kids came, so it’s been about twenty years since I’ve been able to paint and draw with regularity.
Still, my home is full of art. Both my oldest and youngest pursue art. My oldest is at Rhode Island School of Design. My youngest has been drawing manga for years. It’s a tough crowd to show them my art. They are kind in their critiques, helpfully pointed out where my proportion is off because sometimes I know it’s off but I can’t figure out how to fix it.
I’m enjoying being back at an art school again. I’ve signed up for life drawing and portrait classes this year. I’ve always struggled with capturing faces. And now I find myself thinking more about shadow shapes and the formula of proportion for breaking down a face. I’m not sure where this is going, but it’s a drawing challenge that feels like it is coming full circle.
Art as therapy was the best advice that I’ve received as a business school student. Creativity is a healing medium. I think it’s a form of meditation … these timed drawings where I fight what my mind thinks and try to focus on what my eyes actually see. It’s a pure form of staying present.
How about you? Is anyone else exploring art at a later stage in life? Isn’t it funny that no matter how “bad” you did, it’s always so satisfying to spend time creating art? Thanks for listening to my art journey.
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