Art is Who I Am • by Jen Cushman
A Born Writer & Mixed-Media Artist
As I sit down to write my Art Saves story for CRESCENDOh, I find that—for what seems like the first time in my life—words fail me. This blank computer screen is so unusual, I’m aware of the physical sensation of tilting my head to one side, just as my little dog Lilo does when I call her name and she’s trying to figure out what I want of her.
You see, I’m a born writer. One insight that I fully embraced a few years back is that words are my natural talent and art is my passion. I’ve since modified the word “art” to the broader realm of creativity. Being a mixed-media artist means that I find inspiration all around me and pull whatever materials and mediums I need to realize the artistic vision I see in my mind’s eye. Sometimes I envision a canvas, other times an altered book. I also work in collage and assemblage. For the past three years, I’ve been making a lot of jewelry. Last month, we moved into my husband’s childhood home and I find myself obsessively focused on home décor and crafting an artful home for my family to feel both safe and inspired.
Exploring my Creativity
As cliché as it is, my creative life began at birth, but it’s taken me 44 years to realize I was born to make stuff. As I child I was always drawing, painting, writing, dancing, singing off-key, and generally feeling the flow of creative spirit within me. When I was in high school, I decided to become a journalist, and all throughout collage and my twenties that is what I did, and did it well. During those years, I stopped making stuff.
When I was 30, my husband and I decided to start a family. I learned I had PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which is a hormonal imbalance that causes what doctors call “subfertility.” We were blessed to become pregnant almost immediately with our son, and I took it as a sign to take a leave of absence from my newspaper career to be an at-home mom. With an abundance of baby photos and time on my hands, I began scrapbooking. This was before digital photographs and pretty papers. I mocked the words “ lignin-free” and” acid-free” and I began to once again make stuff. I created embellishments from old magazines, vintage books, textured items that I pulled from my recycling bin, metals, and paint. I scrapbooked alone and showed my albums to no one until 2004 when Rusty Pickle made the chunky book style popular in scrapbooking. I started teaching this “altered” style at my favorite local paper arts store.
I continued to explore my creativity in my home, mostly working in whatever medium I wished to investigate at my kitchen table. I had returned to work when my son was 6 months old writing freelance visual arts, so that was how I was known in the crafts/mixed-media art industry. I never did PR my own work or show it to the world beyond local teaching. Very few people knew my innermost desire to be “an artist.”
Answering my Calling
I made a profound decision in 2008 to answer my true calling … to live an artist’s life. To me, this means I’m no longer compartmentalizing my life and what I do on a daily basis. There’s no real separation between work, family, home, art, writing, shopping, cooking, playing, socializing, and just plain being. I attempt to approach whatever task at hand as creatively as possible. Many days I’m successful at it. Other days, I fail miserably. That’s just Life.
Fortunately, I’m busy at my chosen profession. I’m truly blessed and honored to write columns, author books, contribute to other artists’ books whose work fills me with inspiration, lovingly labor each day alongside my business partner to run a successful artist-based company, teach workshops, and juggle it all with a supportive soulmate, a ‘tween son and a three-year-old daughter.
I can’t honestly tell you that art has saved me as much as Art is Who I Am. Without one, there isn’t another.
To learn more about Jen Cushman, visit jencushman.com.