Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Life is about exiting your comfort zone

This is Patti Digh's week here at Hamguin's, although today may be more-accurately labeled my bragging day.

Still, Life is a Verb, Patti's powerful new book on living an intentional life, is part of the story.

Not long before Thanksgiving last year, Patti put out the call on her blog for volunteers who wished to participate in the illustrating of her book. Initially, it was thought to be a case where 37 works of art would be chosen, one for each of the 37 essays to be included in the book.

Once the publisher saw the accumulated art--something like 125 separate works--they made the wise decision to change their production of Life is a Verb to color throughout, using high-quality, coated paper and four-color production techniques to honor the artwork and add to the visual appeal of the book.

This is where I come in. I had volunteered to help only because Patti said, over and over, that everyone was invited, not just those who were avowed artists. My last serious art work was done in first grade, when the teacher said my daisies showed great promise. I figured that was reason enough to consider myself qualified. Plus, it was all I had.

To be honest, I considered reneging a number of times over the few days between the time Patti gave me my assigned essay to illustrate and the morning I emailed the completed work to her. My area of greatest comfort has been, for as long as I can remember, my ability to do some things very well. So, I stuck to those things and excelled. This challenge, this crazy volunteering to create something from thin air, was far enough outside my comfort zone that it was a long-distance call to check back with myself.

On November 20th, Patti assigned me to illustrate Dance in your car. It was the perfect one for me, and the truth of the lesson I needed to learn was right there in my face the entire time I worked on the illustration: stop judging, start dancing!

On November 25th, I sent Patti the illustration you see below. I am proud to say you can also see it in LIAV on page 16. Here is part of what I said to her in the email message which included the illustration:

Over the last few days, I spent far more time imagining what I wanted my primitive card to look like than I did executing it. Most of what you see came to me in those twilight times of consciousness between waking and sleeping. I'm happy with the ideas, and I'm horribly embarrassed by my execution of them.

Now, stepping out of my pants (seriously, that's what it feels like to me...and, for the record, I don't make a habit of stepping out of my pants except when dictated by showers and stuff), I give you "Dance in your car."

I knew that she had lots of people contributing, so I had no worries that she would feel forced to use my work.

Imagine my surprise and semi-shocked glee when I learned some months later that the publisher had decided to use all the art! Mine may not have been nearly as cool as lots of the other art, but mine was definitely one which had to be included when they decided to use it all. I mean, all is all, right? Even this one??

Patti was kind enough to remind me, on the day I submitted this, that I was offering judgment on a work which was illustrating an essay on giving up judging so you might, instead, free yourself from those silly restrictions judging imposes. Do so, and it is possible to dance in your car with no hesitation or embarrassment.

Like I said, it was the perfect essay for this now-published artist. Don't worry--I'm not planning any big future for myself as an artist. After all, I am one-for-one: one work done, one work published. I can't improve on that percentage. My grin is still almost as wide as it was the first time I opened Life is a Verb to page 16, I have to admit.


Steve Sherlock said...

Rick, this is great art work, you deserve all the credit for stepping out of your zone and into the dance! A great inspiration for us all.

Olivia said...

Rick, I DO like this art, and not just because I'm your friend. It is fresh and different and original and profound---like YOU! Congratulations with love, O

TJ said...

Rick, I loved your artwork when I saw it in the book. It's funny because my first reaction was, "this looks like FREEDOM." You are brave, and you are officially an artist too!! My best wishes for all your future creations... xoxoxo tj

Angela said...

Bravo, Rick! Good work adding to more good work. Again, bravo!