“Badges? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges.” Blazing Saddles (1974)

Years ago, when I was in graduate school in NYC, I took a train down to Philly to visit a mentor’s studio. She had strong ideas about setting the stage for her practice, which was one of great discipline and precision being an anatomist as well as a painter. She taught me much about rigor and setting the bar high. She would pretend you didn’t exist if you ever came to class without your homework. I have always respected her.

In her large studio, layered with treasures of her practice, she only played classical music. She professed that anything else would pollute her inspiration, her flow. But the thing that made the strongest impression on me was a large clear glass jar set up on a shelf. This jar was almost completely filled with tiny pencil stubs. There were hundreds of them about 1.5” long. They had reached the length when the pencil can no longer rest on the side of your index finger and so slips into the palm of your hand. She kept every pencil she used up…remnants of her devotion to drawing. It was poignant and beautiful.

Now in my studio, years later, I save the oil paint tubes I have proudly emptied tacking them on the wall above my easel. As soon as I squeeze the last bit of paint out, I pin it up like a medal, a badge of honor. There is a great satisfaction in seeing this collection grow…like my mentor from years ago, there is something about honoring our efforts and seeing remnants accumulate over time.

Until next week, look around and see what sort beautiful evidence you may be leaving behind. As for badges, they might have a place…we earned them. CREATE.