A psychologist friend once told me, when you’re looking at your choice for a career—“look no further than what you spent your time doing at 8-years old.” Now while that really makes sense to me, I shared this theory with a prominent Santa Monica art gallery owner, Bill Turner, and he said with a smile—“Then I guess I should have been a cowboy.”
For me, as a kid of the 60s, it meant obsessively coloring the numbered drawings in Venus Paradise Coloring Sets. I colored every day, and always asked by best friend Tana Klugherz if she saw any “white spaces” in my work—which would indicate I’d missed some spots. I knew that as I got older, I would see those spots in my earlier drawings, so I thought Tana could help circumvent that wretched experience. She was two years older, so naturally she would “see” what I didn’t. It was a happy day when she gave me the thumbs-up.
I remember the pencil colors and numbers. That vibrant turquoise was my favorite –Number 3. Cherry red was Number 5, bright orange–Number 2. They were the kind of pencils artists describe as pigment-rich. The colors were saturated and easy to apply.
I recently tracked down Tana Klugherz (now Kamine) in New Jersey, finding out she had devoted her life and career to art. She’s a successful graphic designer—and still loves it. She reminded me that as children, we used the word “Venus” as a verb. Most days we’d say to each other—“Do you want to Venus?”
I had forgotten that– but I’ve never forgotten the absolute glee that “venusing” brought me.
Just talking about those days made me want them back. That could be why (despite a little detour into a 26-year career as a TV News reporter) I began running art workshops for inner-city kids in South Central L.A. in 1989. It was there, in South Central–the city’s most beleaguered neighborhood—where I started feeling that jolt for color again, as kids splashed bold acrylic paints onto pumpkins at Halloween, and bunnies at Easter.
Apparently the kids–often hundreds at a time–and their parents, felt the same way I did. One mother wanted to express her thanks to us one Christmas and said, “I love when you bring that gold glitter. It makes me feel so rich.” I knew exactly what she meant.
Those kids just love to experiment with color—mixing them all together, until—even after you tell them it will end this way—the mess turns into a big pile of gray. But it’s not the end result that they care about—it’s the process. That feeling of pouring, mixing, thinning, splashing, squishing, and “surfing the goo” with all ten fingers spread open for the ride.
So now, all these years later–after decades spent obsessing about the “white spaces” in my life and career–I finally get it. It’s about the simple, profoundly enormous joy of creating. Even if the road ends up turning gray, there are spectacular colors to see on the way. So I am–metaphorically as well as literally–determined to “surf the goo” again–every day.