Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Spoken Word Artwork of Sharon Hodgson

By Sharon Hodgson

I live paint to promote my work, and to promote the events I paint. The regular event I've been painting over the last (nearly) three years "SPEAK!" presented by Word Iz Bond - is a spoken word event. I really feel that my involvement in a poetry event has allowed me to grow into the role of live painter by gradually getting me more comfortable with public speaking, and also having me regularly producing work in public.

Before I started live painting, I was an agoraphobic afraid of the outside world. I worked from home as a graphic and web designer for a decade, with more than half of that as a freelancer. Like many designers and artists, I became very comfortable with isolating myself to create. Being a freelancer meant I went out even less than other designers might, and I became anxious about any and all social situations. In this modern world, you can even order food and find a relationship online without setting a foot out the front door. Yet I wanted to grow beyond this.

I wanted people to see the art I was producing, and didn't feel that enough people would stumble upon my work by chance by randomly visiting my website. I wanted to get out there in the community to create work in the area and to have it be seen by others. I did a number of murals around town towards that end as well, but my dream was to paint live at events.

Then three years ago, Leslie Carvery invited me to an open mic show at her venue space called Shake It Dance Cafe & Dance Studio ( I live painted a few Open Mic shows there. Some of the open mic performers were poets. One of the poets in attendance named Joi N. Payne ( saw me painting, and invited me to live paint SPEAK!, a monthly event hosted by Word Iz Bond. I have been happily painting and following this spoken word event ever since, and gaining more confidence as I go.

I paint the event as it happens, adding in more poets as they go on the stage. This creates a composite image as the night goes on, with a sense of all or many of the performers being up on the mic all at once.

At the end of every show, I go up and show the audience what I've been working on. I almost always sell my pieces, and am now getting booked for a wide range of local events and fundraisers as a professional live painter. and I blog my latest live paintings and other works here:

But this one spoken word event - SPEAK! - is where I really learned how to overcome my fears and get used to being in public again. I can't thank them enough for the magic of who they are. It delights me to think about spoken word gaining popularity in cities all across North America for how encouraging and magical this one event has proven to be to me.

After attending for a year, I worked up the nerve go to up on stage. I read a poem I wrote about how afraid I was about going outside, with one line in there that stated, "All the world's a stage, and I have stage fright." Now, after three years, I make a point of always going up on the microphone to perform something. I always have at least a couple poems memorized, just in case. [You never know when someone wants you to recite a poem.]

I do art about spoken word because I want the world to know about the event that allowed me to discover my voice, not only as a poet but as a painter as well. I believe that spoken word is a part of North American culture and it hasn't get received the recognition it deserves.

Spoken word events have the potential to build community. As more individuals brave the microphone, more voices are heard to raise concerns, hopes and fears to hopefully lead to greater understanding and cooperation. I do art about spoken word to capture it as it happens, and then to share those painted works with the world for any who are curious about it. I hope that it will draw people to the events so that more people will be exposed to it as an entertainment genre. Maybe some of them will be brave enough to step up to the microphone themselves!

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