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What art should you like? What art should you make?

Bear Paw Quilt Stained Glass by Wayne Stratz.
Bear Paw Quilt Stained Glass by Wayne Stratz.

I’ve been contemplating the “shoulds” that keep recurring in my mind, careening about in arbitrariness. My husband’s love of his grandmother’s quilts led him to a desire to make his own quilts, and after surviving a class in which he was surrounded by calico, he began his elegant patchwork of batik and abstraction. He was mighty good at matching points and seams. His summer as an assistant to his father, a draftsman, aided in this. He finished the quilt top, and then it sat in a dresser drawer, because basting seemed tediously daunting.

This is where he lands in the limbo of what he should do–finish the quilt with a multitude of tiny stitches, slog through. Fortunately, the quilt top came up in conversation with a friend who loves quilting, who practically demanded to finish it, and a bartering deal was struck, whereby Wayne made a 99 piece stained glass panel inspired by a bear paw design quilt block in exchange for the finished quilt. He enjoyed making that stained glass. 99 pieces was a challenge, but not a duty.

I remember taking a drawing class in 2005, and loving it. Suddenly seeing the world, knowing that I carried the ability within me to interpret the world on paper. I didn’t have to research it, or carry anything but pen and paper. I wanted to draw everything. Drawing draws you close to your subject, an intimate way of seeing, noticing things that were invisible to you just seconds before. In the midst of this the “shoulds” butted in, and insisted I needed to be making collages, because I was good at making collages. This voice has seemingly infinite energy, a persistent whine. It simply wants to perpetuate itself. It’s not sophisticated enough to actually encourage creativity, but pretends that it is helping you. In a moment of courage, I decided to set collaging aside. It was scary. You can recognize the “should” voice because it quickly degenerates in doom, into dire visions of failure and worthlessness.

There is no reference manual that indicates exactly which are you should love, hang on your walls, or create. You are your own reference.