Of course, you’re an artist

By:  Barbie Dallmann

“You can’t draw! You’re doing it all wrong!”

Once again, my father grabbed the crayon from my hand, pushed me aside, and demonstrated the proper way to draw a flower. At the tender age of six, I sighed deeply and simply gave up. I can’t do this!

And for nearly 50 years, I barely gave it another thought, until a local artist asked me if I was interested in bartering life coaching for art lessons. Sure. Why not? I need a “practice client” to finish my training.

Professionally I have also been a bookkeeper for over 30 years, and WVCAN has been a client since 2009. I feel particularly lucky to be working closely with Director Emily Chittenden-Laird, whose passion and dedication consistently reflect the values of the organization. She is the same, authentic, committed crusader whether informing the Legislature, hiking with her husband, or trick-or-treating with her children.

Four years ago, when I received an email from her with the subject line “Call to Artists,” I thought she must have made a mistake. Yes, she had been to my office and seen some of my “student work” on the walls, but surely she knew I was no artist! Maybe she wanted me to forward the email to my art teacher. Sure, that must be it. So I did.

That word, “artist,” though, began to taunt me. If I could just somehow step over that word… I might be willing to donate one or two of my paintings for such a good cause.

That tiny opening was all my inner child needed. She picked up her paint brush and began spattering paint everywhere, excited to be creating again. This one! No, this one! Wait, frame this one!

Suddenly I came to my senses. No! No! No! This isn’t for children who throw paint around for fun. This is a fundraiser for an important organization. They’re looking for serious artists. You’re just playing around. For a few days, the stifled six-year-old painter was quiet… until Emily showed up with all those compassionate, encouraging words of hers. “Of course, you’re an artist,” she told the fearful, self-critical adult who stood before her. “We’d love to have your work in our exhibit.”

The inner child, with smudges of paint on her face, jumped for joy. Empowered and hopeful, she became increasingly persuasive and eventually convinced me that we didn’t have to be serious; we could just pretend to be artists; we could do it for fun. And so we did, and both donated pieces sold. Not only did the sale benefit WVCAN, it was the beginning of my life as an artist (still not serious but definitely selling my whimsical creations).

Every year I have donated to the art auction; this year I’m thrilled to offer six pieces, each playfully painted by an empowered, hopeful inner child artist who is, most days, disguised as a professional bookkeeper/life coach.

I’m so very happy to be supporting WVCAN as they continue their mission to empower children, restore hope, and end abuse… on, oh, so very many levels.

Barbie Dallmann



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