Cartography, pt. 1: Pioneers

As a writer, I find in myself a deep-seeded contempt for the art of journaling. I ask, “Why do I need to write down what’s in my head if I’m the only one who will read it?” In many ways, I view it as a kind of literary schizophrenia. Now, before I continue, let me clarify: I have contempt for my keeping a journal, not anyone who keeps a journal. I think it’s a very authentic and self-perpetuating experience – for other people.

In light of that reflection, though, I remembered how the notion of other people is what made me want to be a writer in the first place. I want to tell stories not because I love hearing them or to establish myself as some great icon in the history of literature, but because once I’ve passed my words along to others, my story is transformed into something far greater than I could achieve alone: our story.

The same is true with art. I was sitting in a friend’s kitchen recently, as I often do, and we were having a similar conversation. On her refrigerator, there was a postcard bearing the image of a famous painting. Next to it, there was a torn out sheet of notebook paper with the stenciled image of a sailboat – all in blue, all outlines, no artistic depth whatsoever. “Who’s boat?” I asked. “Oh, that’s Bailey’s. Every time she comes over she says ‘I wanna draw! I wanna draw!’ So I get out the stencils and some crayons and she just goes to town for hours. When she made this one, she was telling me all about it as she was drawing it. She said…” and, teary-eyed, she told me the story of Bailey’s sailboat. In that moment I saw in her the same awe and amazedness I’ve seen in people at galleries of famous artists and at world-renown museums of art. That torn out sheet of notebook paper no longer held a crudely stenciled blue sailboat; it opened up my friend, crawled inside of her and started throwing things around. It was no longer Bailey’s sailboat, it was the other piece of art my friend keeps on her refrigerator door

As creative individuals, we must not fall into schizophrenic patterns of hoarding our art away and doing it injustice by coveting it in our locked trunks at the feet of our beds. We have both a desire to go diving into the waters of innovation and a responsibility to not only document our findings, but to use them for the betterment of people. Everyone exists in a community, and the health of that community is reliant on the health of communication between its members.

We have these phenomenal gifts that allow us to tap into the most sensitive and withdrawn areas of people – the dark and dusty corners where they’ve swept their pain and anger, rejection, broken dreams, lost loves. The problem is, we bring these repressed feelings out, then we just leave people to deal with them. This is why, as creatives, it is vital that we express ourselves both through our chosen mediums and through community. Is it not true that we would be doing our gifts and those affected by them injustices by not using said gifts to the full extent of their potential?

We have an opportunity here to be a new kind of poet, painter, vocalist, photographer, graphic designer, songwriter, actor, philosopher, writer, filmmaker, etc. As we discover who we are as a creative community of hope, let us be cautious not to retreat into ourselves. Let us not reject the communities that lay before us to make room for our own city limits. Let us be a microcommunity that co-exists within the cities/states/countries that have done so much to make us who we are as individuals.

As we explore the untamed forests of expressive potential, let us pioneer new trails that carve out our artistic identity.

posted by Ian Scott Paterson, co-architect


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