A Lightbulb Moment

October 13, 2006

I had a lightbulb moment yesterday. You know, that moment when the lightbulb goes on in your head and you say, “Oh, I get it!” It is a lightbulb that I’m afraid should have been turned on many, many years ago.


While I was in college, I took a class for realistic drawing. I enjoyed the class a lot. I found drawing to be very calming and relaxing- almost hypnotic. And I felt that my drawings were fairly successful. Mr. Drawing Professor did not share my asssessment of my drawings, however. “You drawings are technically perfect,” he said, “but they don’t ‘speak’ to me.” So, gradewise, I did not do well in the class and he never would hang any of my drawings in the class shows. I have puzzled for years over just what it was that he meant since he could explain it no better than “they don’t speak to me”.


Just down the hall from the drawing studio was the weaving studio. It was in this studio that I truly was in heaven. I loved weaving. I didn’t find it relaxing, but invigorating. I wanted to try all of the colors, all of the different weights of fibers. I wanted to mix them all with wire, with plastic strips, with what ever I could find to see what happened to them. My work came out in all kinds of shapes and sizes, 2-D and 3-D. Ms Weaving Professor was thrilled with the work I did, so I did well in that class.

It wasn’t until yesterday that the lightbulb came on as to why my weaving was so much more successful than my drawing. I read a quote from Robert Frost about creative writing and it went like this:

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.
No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.

Isn’t that awesome? In the drawing studio I was taking no risks. I was not experimenting, I was not learning, I was not struggling, I was not developing. I was safely doing the things that I had been taught to do with a pencil and pushing it no further. I was not putting anything of myself in to the drawings and it clearly showed to Mr. Drawing Professor.

However in the weaving studio I poured my self into it. I tried new things. I experimented with vague ideas in my head until they became reality. I struggled. I pushed. There were tears when things didn’t work out the way I wanted. And there were surprises when something happened that I didn’t expect. It was much harder but it was all pure joy for me. And Ms Weaving Professor saw it all.

I am so glad that I finally am coming to an understanding of what Mr. Drawing Professor meant when he said my drawings didn’t speak to him. I have finally learned something from that experience and can move on and apply it.

I love lightbulb moments!



  1. Thank you for sharing this insight. Your experience is a life lesson that we all need to live, or to recognize. As a mentor, this is an important aspect that I need to keep uppermost in mind.

  2. I think the professor could have been more specific with his comments and helped you more at the time. BTW I love your drawing.

  3. Incredible insight. I spent years trying to create art that looked real. I know it’s the way we were taught “back then,” but we had too many rules, little freedom of expression. There was, as you said, no risk. It’s still hard [for me] to be abstract. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  4. Great write-up, Deb. Everything you say is so true…and totally the kind of thing you have to discover for yourself. We get those lightbulb moments when we are ready to understand and apply them. My painting is that way also…kind of lifeless…I can express myself much better in other media like fabric or clay.

  5. Coming from a home ec background full of rules, it is often very hard to break out of the comfortable rules and just “Go For It” with zest and meaning. I takes a whole nother mindset to work on that level. I totally understand what you are saying.

  6. I hear exactly what you’re saying. I felt the same way with my thread painting. I got to a certain point where it got so perfect it looked digitized. I hated it. I had to mess it up a bit, start taking the risks, making it more organic, & having more fun with it. I tell my students now to be a little messy on purpose, otherwise it ends up looking like an embroidery machine did it.

  7. Exactly–that’s very wise.

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