Lessons Learned – Clifford Wilton – Ep 32
June 1, 2022
ON TODAY’S EPISODE
I’ve always been interested in the creative journey. The path is different for everyone, but we are all just finding our way as we go. The person who first shared this idea with me was my father, Clifford Wilton. He gave me such a deep appreciation for the pilgrimage each of us is on. Join me, as I share some of the most valuable lessons my father taught me during his life including the importance of being yourself, doing what you love, and not letting anyone stand in your way.
Listen if you are interested in…
- Reflecting on my family [1:17]
- Clifford Wilton tells “The Chicken Story” [8:40]
- Don’t let anyone get in your way [12:37]
- Be yourself at all costs [19:31]
- Choose abundance over scarcity [23:30]
- Find what you love, do what you love [30:00]
- Paint the feeling, not the thing [34:00]
Did you have a school bully? I did. They made my life hell for longer than I’d like to remember. Every day they specifically targeted me to the point where I didn’t even want to go to school anymore. Something had to change. So I went to my father for advice and I did not like what I heard: fight back. My dad told me I needed to fight this kid because the only reason they were picking on me is that I let them. I can still hear his words “You’re going to have to confront him. Even though he’s bigger than you. You’re going to have to fight him and punch back. You have to see red.”
As a visual and creative person, I understood what “seeing red” meant. I needed to go crazy on this bully. So I duct-taped a chain to my fist and hid it in my puffy, down coat. I was going to wail on him the second he opened his mouth. I summoned every bit of confidence my dad had instilled in me the day prior as the bully approached, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. But when he got to me he just stopped, looked into my eyes, and walked away. I couldn’t believe it! It’s like he knew the dynamic had shifted. I don’t think my dad necessarily wanted me to fight this guy. He wanted me to know my own strength and to know that I didn’t have to put up with the abuse anymore. I learned two things that day: No one has the right to stand in your way and my dad might know some stuff.
No matter the cost
As a teenager, I really enjoyed making stained glass art. I would copy a photograph or magazine illustration, translate it to glass, and then put them together like puzzle pieces. Whenever I showed my father the art I was working on, he never seemed that impressed, or offered any encouragement. While some may find that cold, it truly taught me how to make things for myself and not for other people. Art was just something we did that was as natural as breathing. Creativity was just a part of our daily lives.
One day, I had the opportunity to learn from glass artist Ludwig Schaffrath in his studio. He had us pick up any random piece of glass that spoke to us and create a design around it. So I made a window out of a beautiful glass flower petal I found in the back of the shop. I will never forget my father’s excitement when I showed him the completed work. He told me that everything I had done until now was cool, but this was so fantastic because it was completely original. My father showed me the value of creating. The power of something existing solely because you made it. It was at that moment I learned how much we as artists need to be ourselves, no matter the cost.
Nobody wants to disappoint their parents. We seem to be hardwired with the desire to make them proud, even when it means sacrificing ourselves. Unhealthy parents often hand their unfulfilled dreams to their kids, thinking it’s guidance when it’s actually a heavy burden. What happens if we can’t live up to their expectations? What if we’re simply on a different path? So you can imagine the anxious thoughts running through my head when my father asked me to sit down and discuss my future before heading off to college. Was this the end of my art career?
I’ll never forget it. My father sat me down, looked me square in the eyes, and told me the only way I could disappoint him is if I didn’t figure out what I loved to do. That the entire point of life is to try as many things as possible until you find YOUR thing. While I certainly took it as an admonishment not to waste the opportunities I had been given, it was also a loving declaration of freedom. My father was simultaneously telling me it was okay to not know what my thing is and championing my ability to figure it out. I am so grateful for the foundation he gave me. It’s the same foundation I seek to give other artists through Art2Life. For more lessons learned, listen to this episode!
Resources & People Mentioned
- 2017 Clifford Wilton Exhibition
- The Thing That Can Change Everything For You
- Ludwig Schaffrath (Artist)
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With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.
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