St Spirydon by Susan Friend
St. Spirydon Church, a pen and ink sketch by my sister Susan Friend
From a very young age, I loved to create art. I would take rocks from the backyard and paint them to look like turtles and other creatures. I would sketch in my sketchbooks and as I got older, attempt to recreate the scenes around me – the forests, the places we traveled – in a variety of media, especially colored pencil. In fact, I even did a huge sketch for a high school friend as a wedding present for her to give to her husband.

Then life took a different turn. I moved away from family and went to college in Pittsburgh, working computer-related jobs and learning how to design databases. I wrote – I always wrote – but my art fell by the wayside. When it came time that I had the spirit to revive it, I was afraid. My sisters could make “better” art than me, art that glowed with realism, and I felt defeated. If I couldn’t make the art in my head come out on the canvas, what was the point?

I still loved art, of course. I collected art glass and pottery, original paintings and fine craftwork. But I remained afraid of doing it myself. It wasn’t until I took a retreat this October to clear my mind that once again I put pencil to paper and made something of it. I played with pastels. And in December, I started painting. Not photo-realistically as I’d wanted to do, but in a style I can claim as my own.

Yesterday, Mom and I wandered through two distinctly different art galleries – the Maitland Art Center and the Morse Museum of American Art. The broad spectrum of art inside both was an epiphany for me. Art is what you make. Granted, some scholar may try to fit it into a school of style, but it’s an expression of what’s inside you. Now I feel less scared of creating art – for I’ve always been scared that if I focused on art, I’d lose my ability to write – so I’ll find those special times and places to keep creating.