We all need a hero.

And we can all BE a hero.

Although I love that Tina Turner song from the movie Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, I have to disagree…

We do need another hero. Lots of ’em.

I’m often asked how I got started making my art, and I’ll share it here.

I was the typical “class artist” throughout grade school, drawing at every opportunity. (Mostly horses, come to think of it.) Then drawing for other kids (“Draw a dog for me!” “Can you draw a mouse?”) Then cartoons for the school newspaper (and writing a funny column, come to think of it).

I couldn’t wait to go to college, so I could learn to be an artist. (Our school’s art programs constantly fell victim to budget cuts, so I had very little access to making “real” art.) That didn’t happen, for a lot of reasons, none of them very good in hindsight.

And so I left my art as a young person. Mostly because I believed so many MYTHS ABOUT ARTISTS.

I backed away from it later because when I stayed home with my children, it was so very very hard to make time for anything beyond trying to be a good wife and a good mother. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever introduced yourself as “(your child’s name here)’s mom”. I still introduce myself to some people as “Doug’s mom” and “Robin’s mom”.)

There was barely time to knit a hat or finish a project before I had to clear the table for lunch, or dinner, let alone take on any serious or involved ventures.

I actually got to the point where I decided to simply focus on good wife/good mom, and wait til there was more time/money/opportunity to do differently.

I thought it was the right thing to do. There was some relief in “letting go” of that dream.

But something in me was sad, too. I pushed it down and tried to forget about it.

Shortly after that, as I watched my darlin’ three-year-old daughter at play, I found myself daydreaming about her…

What would her life be like? It seemed to spread before us like a tiny brook, growing into a mighty river.

What kind of person would she be? I hoped she’d be the same person she was now: Quiet but deep-thinking; shy but fierce in her beliefs; talented in so many ways; loving yet independent; quirky, different, her own person, comfortable in her own skin.

What kind of work would she do? There were so many possibilities.

Who would she love? Would she marry, too? I hoped she’d find someone who would respect her strengths and encourage her dreams. I hoped she’d find a loving partner who would let her shine, who would let her simply be herself.

And then an epiphany whacked me right over the head. Three big questions tumbled into my brain. In big glowing capital letters.

1) Did my mother want that for me when I was young?
(I still don’t know the answer to that one. I was the oldest of seven, there may not have been time to spend daydreaming!)

2) How could I want that for my daughter, and not want that for myself?

3) How will my daughter know what that looks like–to be all she can be–if I didn’t model that for her?

I knew I had to be a hero for my daughter. And for me.

I knew I had to be authentic for my daughter. And for me.

That was the day I knew I had to be an artist. Or die.

That was the day I knew it didn’t even matter if I would be a good artist. I just had to do it.

It’s a perfect inspirational story for parents. These are powerful questions for breaking through the barriers we erect between ourselves and our dreams. It’s amazing to see the look of shocked enlightenment on the face of something who “gets it”:

“What am I teaching my kid??”

Are you actually teaching them to NOT live their dream? (Because you’re not?)

Are you showing them they shouldn’t try if they think they might fail? (Beause you’re afraid to?)

Are you telling them that someone else’s needs always outweigh their own? (Because that’s what you always do?)

Ow. Ow. OW!!

If you don’t have kids of your own, maybe this would be helpful:

“Someone–somewhere–is looking to you to be a hero.”

Maybe someone we care about deeply. Maybe not.

Sometimes it’s easier to be brave for someone else we care about, braver than we would normally choose for ourselves. Hopefully, as we grow older/wiser/more evolved, we choose to follow our power because that’s the right thing to do. (See the Martha Graham quote here.

But til then, altruism can be a force for good that’s also good for us.

Be someone’s hero. Be your own hero.

Author: Luann Udell

I find it just as important to write about my art as to make it. I am fascinated by stories. You can tell when people are speaking their truth--their eyes light up, their voices become strong, their entire body posture becomes powerful and upright. I love it when people get to this place in their work, their relationships, their art. As I work from this powerful place in MY heart, I share this process with others--so they have a strong place to stand, too. Because the world needs our beautiful art. All of it we can make, as fast as we can! Whether it's a bowl, a painting, a song, a garden, a story, if it makes our world a better place, we need to do everything in our power to get it out there.


  1. Wise words, as always, Luann. As Freud pointed out, the two most important things we have in life are love and work – not just any work, but the work we were created to do. If we don’t do it, it will be forever left undone, and missing from a world that needs it. There’s nothing better for children than to see their parents struggling to accomplish their dreams. It’s the trying that counts. Children today are too insulated from failure. Teaching them to stay in the ring, to keep on fighting the good fight, to do what is right instead of what is easy, is a better lesson than all the “success” strategies educators waste time on today. My grandmother used to say, “keep on keeping on.” That’s being a hero.


  2. An artist’s basic drive is to communicate a vision expanding the collective knowledge of others through the creation of something new and/ or unique.
    All people benefit from art in the world
    whether or not they’ve realized it or noticed.
    I believe by starting to make Art again you acted not only as a model for your daughter, but as also
    to add to the fabric of other people’s lives. Gratefully your drive to communicate is strong.
    I’m thankful to be able to read you, another artist in the world. daniel


  3. I so wish my mother had had that moment. It is the greatest pain I have in relation to my parents that she apparently just stopped when I started school. And never regained that sense of agency, and it’s now almost ten years since I (only child) left home.


  4. So glad I read this…thanks to all things metal clay for sending your blog to me. Still finding my way back to my creative self, but I think you know it’s right when you go immediately into your “zen” place, if you know what I mean, once you start to make something.


  5. I fully understand and agree with what Luann is saying but then there is the issue of how to get that done. When do we set aside the dishes, or supper, or bike rides with the kids, or time with our husbands, to make art? There are times where one of my paintings will sit for weeks in between only an hour long painting session. It’s disheartening at times, saying no to child’s request to find butterflies because you want to be a career hero – what will they remember when they grow up? The time you spent with them, or the time you spent creating art? How can we as working mothers/wives, find the balance to be a mom/wife/employee and also create art?


  6. Crystal, I feel your pain, and I remember those days.

    You are absolutely right, those days when our children are young are so fleeting. I would chose to find butterflies, too! In fact, I did, over and over.

    It’s not about giving your all to one or the other. A wise woman once told me, “A woman CAN have it all. Just not always at the same time.”

    And there is no simple, one-size-fits-all solution. Even when you find something that works, it can change in an instant.

    I used an extra room in our house for a studio, working while my daughter was in preschool school. When my son was born, eventually he needed that room. I rented a small studio outside our home, crafting for the four hours a week he was in preschool. As they grew older and spent more time in school, or with their friends, or on their own activities, that was my chance to work more regularly.

    I was very fortunate. I had a husband who fully supported my desire, who helped me carve out an hour here and there.

    Last, having a circle of supportive friends, who truly see you as an artist, and who remind you of that, can be a life-saver. They can hold your vision for you until you can carve out a little time for yourself.

    My point was, just don’t drop it and walk away from it forever. The hole in your heart, and your spirit, will remind you of your loss every single day.

    And that is not a good message to send to your kids.

    Good luck, and never give up trying to find your own way to make that happen.


  7. Luann,

    Thanks for a wonderful essay. I am a dad, but I have made those decisions many times. I have tried not to let myself get to that point and to just remember to take the time to be a photographer. Sometimes that works, sometimes not.

    Thanks for the inspiration.


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