The drawing you see here was done by a boy in his early teens, in the mid-1950s. Not so unusual in itself—countless boys have made similar drawings of rock bands. But what earned this drawing a place in a museum was the particular young artist who created it: James Marshall Hendrix, born Johnny Allen Hendrix, known to most of us as Jimi Hendrix.
I learned of Jimi's early artistic leanings on a recent trip to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, where the drawing is displayed. According to the accompanying text, Hendrix once dreamed of being a commercial artist. His father recalled that Jimi never had art lessons, but "he had a good hand and his ideas and imagination."
No kidding. Jimi's good hand, ideas and imagination, applied to music, were nothing short of mind-blowing. Kinda makes you glad that commercial art thing never panned out.
People like Jimi Hendrix, whose creativity crosses boundaries—from visual to verbal to musical to culinary--fascinate me, and like anything, once you start looking, examples are everywhere.
I found another at Rock Hall, in an exhibit on Graham Nash and his passion for making music and art—from his early days as a founding member of the Hollies to his years with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, to his later work as solo artist and photographer. Like Hendrix, Nash traces his interest in visual arts to childhood, when photography captured his imagination. Later, he not only made his own photos and experimented with digital imaging, he also collected photographs and other artifacts from the intersecting worlds of art, rock music and politics.
I had never thought of collecting as a creative outlet, but a quote from Nash in the exhibit made it clear that he does. Unfortunately I didn't write down the quote (blame sensory overload and the approaching lunch hour), but it was something to the effect that he tries to engage in some creative activity every day; if he's not writing a song, he's making photographs or painting or collecting.
Not a bad way to live, whether or not you consider collecting a form of creative expression. (And I admit, after reading Nash's quote, I'm trying to look differently at Ray's habit of coming home from every trip to Harbor Freight with yet another free tape measure. That stash of nearly forty tape measures in his workshop is not a sign of hoarding, it's creative genius at work.)
Turns out, it's not just my husband and rock stars who practice crossover creativity. Many poets and authors regularly mix media. For example:
Reading about all these multiply-creative people absolves my guilt (if I ever had any) for leaving my writing desk and walking into the woods with my camera or hauling out my collage-making materials. These excursions into other art forms aren't procrastination or dilettantism, they're simply alternate ways of expressing myself. And while I'm exploring those alternatives, maybe I'll swing by Harbor Freight and pick up a few tape measures to add to Ray's collection. It's a creative thing.
What's your creative thing, and how can you step beyond its boundaries?
Written from the heart,
from the heart of the woods
Read the introduction to HeartWood here.
Nan Sanders Pokerwinski, a former journalist, writes memoir and personal essays, makes collages and likes to play outside. She lives in West Michigan with her husband, Ray.