I was fortunate to be in one of the best art programs in the country when I was in high school.
I don’t say that to brag; I say that because I’m still in awe of all that I learned there, and of the true depth of the lessons that have stuck with me in the decades since.
Despite always being deeply interested in creative projects since I was little, I began painting seriously in high school. There, I was blessed to have a teacher, Dick Trick, take me under his wing, teaching me watercolor and acrylic painting. But he also taught me much more.
One day, Dick pinned a bunch of work around the room. He told us it was from his previous students. The work was good -- it was very good. We all sat in stunned silence, with an internal dialogue starting, telling us that we could be producing work just as good.
He didn’t tell us until later that it was actually work from his very recent college years -- work that had more experience behind it; more fine tuning. His point? He wanted us to know that we could draw and paint like that. He wanted us to start thinking like true creative souls, with limitless possibilities.
All it took was pushing past the limitations we had imposed upon ourselves -- those mental barriers telling us we could only paint at a certain level, or we were only so good.
Dick filled the room with still life -- stalks of corn, a horse saddle, dishes, clothes -- and let us portray them as we wanted. He taught us about famous artists, taking us to a show of Andrew Wyeth’s work in New York City. He encouraged us to enter scholastic art awards. The art studio in school was filled with life. It was filled with inspiration. It was filled with opportunity. All because one art teacher believes all students have creativity deep within them and are only limited by their own beliefs about themselves.
Not everyone has someone like Dick in their life. I am forever grateful for him. I got more out of my high school years than most art students get through college, and even through life. The realization of my own barriers and the willpower to push past them have made an incredible difference in my art, far beyond the tactical lessons in different brushstrokes and styles.
And while the lessons he taught me stretch even further, if I could share only one thing with you, it would be this: Push past what you think are your limitations. Be brave. Just beyond your comfort zone is the place where you’ll be able to connect with your true creativity.