I just finished 9 weeks of being a crossing guard. I needed to pick up a little extra money and so twice a day at the beginning and end of the school day, I drove to the worst intersection in town and with a corrugated stop sign, jousted with impatient and inattentive drivers in order to get to the other side of the road.
In the end, no one got hurt and the automobilers got plenty of chance to honk their horns.
On my last day, I reflected on how my daily schedule will change and I will have more time to paint. It also occurred to me how painting and crossing guard have some similarities.
7 Ways an artist is like a crossing guard
You must show up every day.
Be on time. It doesn’t matter what the weather is or what your mood is. I crossed in thunderstorms and unseasonable cold weather. If the weather changes while you are out there, too bad! You can’t leave the corner.
As an artist, it is important to also keep to a schedule. Even when not inspired, picking up the brushes is at the very least practice and the way you get better. At its best, painting can be an uplifting experience. But you can’t roll over and sleep in. You can’t skip a day if you want to call yourself an artist.
Always be alert
even when a lot of the job is just waiting around. When there are no pedestrians, there is nothing to do. But you can’t daydream since someone may be coming around the corner.
Inspirationand motitvation as an artist is not always there. But you need to put in your time and be present, because it may arrive at any moment. You might be making sketch after sketch, doodling. Or jumping between possible subjects trying to decide what to do next. Or waiting for the right composition to “appear”. But be present because your muse may be running a little late.
Being a crossing guard is performing a valuable service, guiding and protecting people.
Art performs a service by providing beauty and calm and opening up new perceptions. Art is a cornerstone of civilization even if the job is often overlooked.
4 occasionally you must take a bold step.
The traffic sometimes will not stop if you are timid. Those cars have places to be, dragging along their passengers and cell phones. And you must throw out that sign, take a step out onto the asphalt and stare down and stop traffic.
When creating art, you must also force the issue sometimes. The great vision is illusive as the massive crush of speeding mundane thoughts crowd your brain. And the artist must jump out throguh force of will and make the first paint stoke or put pencil to paper and just begin.
5 Even with a reflective yellow vest and a flashing stop hand sign, you will often be ignored.
Even waving the stop sign at an approaching motorist, you can see a glaze over their eyes – a captain of two tons of metal yet asleep at the wheel.
What I think is my best art work sometimes escapes the judge’s attention. It can be hard to get into a show. Many people do not really appreciate and see art as other than a way to cover up an empty space or a stain on the wall.
6 No matter how well you do your job, there will always be critics.
During my short stint as a crossing guard, I was flipped off twice. Both times while the drivers blithely ran through the stop sign. Luckily, no one was hurt. A shocking Self-important attitude that where they have to go is more important than safety of pedestrians (although let’s face it, they can’t be In more of a hurry than ME if they are walking)
Worse than not being seen, is acknowledgement and rejection. Not all art appeals to all people but it can still be tough when the thumb points down or the middle finger points up.
7 You can’t control what happens.
Sometimes the drivers are so focused on the choreography of the four wheelers, that bicycles and travelers by foot don’t register. And sometimes you have to let that car go through even though they are breaking some laws, not taking their turn or making an unexpected movement.
One thing I learned is that directional signals can be ignored. Most people do not turn on their signals until after they are actually making the turn. And may signals are left on from the last lane change. Some drivers seem to be changing their mind as the enter the intersection as to which way they want to go.
Watercolors in particular yields surprises (ha! note the traffic terminology I snuck in there). Colors flow together. Paintings take on a life of their own and take you in a different direction than what you planned.
Relax. Accept the changes and you will get to your destination. In the end, close calls don’t matter.
Bonus reason #8. Crossing guards are sexy.
OK, I made that one up.
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Siskel and Ebert