My entire life, my dad has built amazing furniture.
He grew up building things, eventually going to college to become an industrial arts teacher. He’s spent nearly 40 years teaching woodworking, drafting (home plans), and eventually CAD (computer-aided drafting). For years he taught industrial arts while drawing homes for a private company.
And in his spare time, he built his own projects in his shop.
He said it was his hobby, and he always invited me to join him in his shop and learn the trade. He never pushed or forced me, and regrettably, I almost never took him up on it.
In my early school years, I started messing around with computers. I built Geocities websites, got into online forums and instant messages, joined online gaming communities on a dial-up connection, and messed around adding modified files to the program’s code so my Medal of Honor: Allied Assault character had a custom uniform.
I was 11 years old, starting down the road of messing with code and finding online community. For a long time, I convinced my online friends that I was 19.
Around that same time, I remember my dad talking to me about getting a hobby myself. Something I cared about and could spend time doing with my hands…something that wasn’t video games.
I started collecting state quarters. Then I tried getting into baseball cards and, eventually, even stamps. We bought packs and packs of old stamps, searching for their match in a large bound book so that we could glue the stamp to it’s printed photo.
All of these attempts were incredibly boring, and subsequently failed. “Hobbies” didn’t appeal to me.
Years passed. I got into football, then track. I gave up gaming and creating websites in favor of lifting and hanging out with my friends.
For those years, the college years that followed, and up to near present day, I never found a hobby. I got more and more involved in causes, organizations, and I worked more and more.
Productivity. Achievement. Staying busy.
And in all those years, I felt a hole. I could never put my finger on it…something was just missing. I’d pick up writing comedy, and let it go. I’d learn the basic chords on a guitar, and then let it go. I’d start taking classes on coding, and then I’d let it go.
Eventually I got into entrepreneurship and technology. It was so cool – I was making things out of thin air that didn’t exist before! Turning ideas into reality! I got into product management so I could work with designers and engineers and we could make solutions to problems.
What I never realized, and what my dad never said, is that his “hobby” is art. My dad, his whole life, was dedicating a significant portion of his time to creating things. In fact, he’s said multiple times that other peoples’ work is “artsy” and his is not.
But my dad is an artist. He makes things and it fuels him.
All those years I spent feeling like something was missing, trying to fill it with derivatives of the art I saw other people making, I was trying to quell my own innate desire to create.
I’m still trying to feed that desire (you’re reading it).
Are you feeding yours?
I threw around the word “art” pretty liberally here. I want you to consider revisiting your notion of what art is with these two very quick reads: