Monday, February 03, 2014

Artistic or Not?

I never considered myself the creative, artistic type. Crafty, I am not.  Art connoisseur, fashionista, Interior Designer would never be words I or anyone else who knows me would likely use to describe me.

The study of art in particular has always intimidated me. I can barely draw a stick figure with confidence. It was only a few years ago that I figured out how to distinguish my girl stick figure from my boy stick figure by adding a triangle "skirt" to my girl. That was good enough for me.

I am surrounded, however, by so many talented, artistic folks-- Professional photographers, crafters, blog authors, painters, potters, graphic designers, and many, many women who beautify their homes and their person effortlessly.

This past year, I took a job as a tutor with Classical Conversations, the homeschool co op that the kids and I participate in every Monday.  Apart of my job description is to teach fine arts, 12 weeks of music and 12 weeks of art. I don't think I can begin to describe how intimidating and unappealing this subject matter is for me.

I do have a 2 year stint of playing the clarinet (so beautifully that my dad would pull out his pretend rifle to shoot the geese he thought were flying overhead whenever I practiced) that provides some frame of reference for teaching music.  My only frame of reference for teaching art, on the other hand, comes almost solely from all the amazingly gifted friends I know.

So, when looking over my assigned lessons for the current 6 week session of fine arts and seeing that not only am I presenting some of the world's greatest artists but also duplicating, or making my most valiant effort at duplicating, their art work, the most encouraging thought I could think to myself was, "Umm, this is going to be interesting."

Thus far, we have taken a very cursory look at Rembrandt, Linnaeus, Gainsborough, and today, Monet. With the help of an easy to follow, easy to impliment book, "Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters" by MaryAnn Kohl and Kim Solga, I think I have done a half decent job fumbling my way through these past four weeks of lessons.

Up until today, however, I only presented the material to my students. I did not actually participate in the art project itself. After all, someone has to fetch clean water with which to clean out brushes. I was more than happy to serve my students in this way.

Maybe it was the larger than life snowflakes falling outside my living room bay window, or maybe it was the fact that I was in my own home and not at co op because of the snow, that I wanted to pick up a brush, create my own palette of colors and attempt a mock Monet.

Choosing one of his most famous paintings, and possibly easiest? to duplicate, "Water Lillies and the Japanese Bridge", the kids and I set to create something from nothing.  I turned on some classical music as is my habit for my class at co op and began to lightly pencil in the bridge.

Slowly, carefully at first, and methodically I choose colors, mixed colors and applied strokes that I felt were in keeping with what I saw on the image of Monet's painting as viewed from my computer screen.

Having taught 6 weeks of basic principles of art to my class earlier this year, I found that applying those basic principles and techniques produced a finished product that I am proud of. Is it good?  Relatively speaking, no, I don't think it's good. But, is it good for me?  YES! I am actually quite proud of my work. I told my husband tonight I want to frame it.

I have been looking at this painting of mine all day, and it has inspired me in several ways.
I have predetermined ideas about what I think I am good at or not good at. Areas of skill or knowledge that I judge myself to be only mediocre, I cross off my mental list as worthwhile pursuits. And, while there is a measure of wisdom in that, given the call to be wise stewards of our precious time here on earth, my estimation of what is good or good enough cannot and should not keep me from trying things, from serving in ways that may not be my area of strength.

Sometimes, it is less that I am not good at something and more that I just have not been taught some basic principles or been afforded extended exposure to an area of life.

Sometimes,  it takes more than one stab (or ten) at something before an inkling of talent or giftedness emerges.

Sometimes, ability is as okay as giftedness.

I have no intention of trying to auction off my "Monet Masterpiece" on ebay or start an Etsy shop of "Briana's Best Reproductions of the Great Artists", but I do plan to frame my work and smile every time I look at it, reminding myself as I do that sometimes one just has to try and try again. Sometimes, one can find joy in just being able. Sometimes, one just needs some basic, guiding principles to set her loose on a newly found skill or craft.  Sometimes, one has not yet discovered all she is capable of.

Is there something you have determined you are no good at but perhaps only because you have never really tried or had enough exposure or practice?  Take a look at my Monet and jump on over that mental hurdle of yours.  Give it a try and see where it takes you.  Who knows what ability or talent may be lying untapped?

1 comment:

Danielle said...

So glad you tried it, Briana. I think Impressionism is hard. I tried it once. Big blotches of paint seem easy but to make it look so beautiful when you stand back is quite hard!

And besides, these days art is often about process, not result anyway. Looks like this art process turned out to be quite meaningful to you!