A trail of breadcrumbs for art

How do people identify a creative endeavor that speaks to them? Very few people have a driving passion for writing or art or music — one that motivates them throughout their life. Most of us don’t. Elizabeth Gilbert has an insightful presentation where she argues that for most people, life isn’t about one great passion, but rather a meandering path where we find one interest, and then another. It is about our journey where we gather each breadcrumb as it appears on our path, and at the end, hopefully we are filled.

Demo for BETA
The steps to carving a snowflake are simple — designed to eliminate the “what will I draw?” conundrum.

I had the opportunity earlier this month to be a crumb-planter when I took an activity to the BETA kids of Nashville, Indiana. The BETA program operates out of a three room building in a very small town that is home to many artists and craftspeople. Once a week, kids in middle and high school come to play video games, make music and work with audio-visual equipment, and participate in art activities. They eat Nutella sandwiches and visit in a setting that is nothing like I experienced in my adolescence.

Some kids instinctively knew how to hold the linoleum carving tools.

Whenever I take a linocut activity somewhere, I try to think about the group, the setting and the available time. The “what-to-draw” phase often takes much of the time allotted. Since it is almost winter, I decided to have the kids first cut snowflakes from tracing paper, which is easy to use because it is thin. We used a light adhesive spray (sprayed outside) and adhered the snowflake to the linoleum blocks I had brought.

Good quality colored pencils were then used to trace around the snowflake and to fill in any holes on the inside. Then it was easy to pull the snowflake off the linoleum and decide whether to carve away the snowflake, or the areas that were “not snowflake.”

For some kids, this was the first time they had carved something.

I have learned over time that you will have a few people who will finish the entire activity, and others who will do a part or just enjoy carving. One girl created an elaborate snowflake, the complexity of which she bemoaned as she alternated between carving and going outside to chat with friends.

At the end of three hours, we had some prints, some carved linoleum block, and plenty of snowflake pieces and linoleum scraps. No one decided to devote their life to the pursuit of the linocut. But perhaps a bit of breadcrumb was picked up that may lead to someone trying it again some time in their life.

What is the latest trail of breadcrumbs you are following?

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