For as far back as I can remember, I have loved to draw, paint, make things out of strings, stick, and clay. Who didn’t enjoy art making as a child? When you are five years old, and you draw a picture of your family standing next to a house and a tree, that is the BEST drawing ever drawn. That drawing is immortalized on the fridge, and visitors to your home ask about its creation. At what point in a child’s development does that beautiful drawing become less impressive?
During my elementary through high school years, I looked forward to art class more than anything else. Making art allowed me to play with color, line, and ideas. It wasn’t unusual for me to lose track of time while working on a project in class and work past the bell or during lunch. At home, I could spend hours alone in my room drawing greeting cards, illustrations for my “magazine,” or caricatures of our family dog.
During my junior year of high school, I requested admissions catalogs for art schools across the U.S. I poured through these big, colorful catalogs, and I wondered what it would be like to make art on a full-time basis. In my senior year of high school, I took a ceramics and mixed media class with a new teacher. She gave me a C+ on a clay vase and gave me a 0 (yes, 0%) on another project because it was not in the classroom at the time of project grading. (My project had been removed from the class somehow.) These grades devastated me: I was a straight A student in my other courses, and I’d always excelled in art. What had I done wrong? Why didn’t my teacher believe me when I explained that I had left my finished project in the classroom? Why wasn’t my work worthy of an A?
Looking back, I know that my spirit for making art was lost that year. I have always been sensitive to criticism, and I became convinced that my art was not so special after all. My art was kid’s stuff and now it was time for me to go to college and grow up. I didn’t submit my art portfolio to a single art school.
Instead of art school, I went to a liberal arts college where I discovered a new channel for artistic expression in my creative writing and poetry workshops. It took some time, countless critiques, and a bit of red wine in the library, but I discovered that the flow of writing was much like that of making art. At times, I became obsessed with my poems, my stories, and my literary analyses. I fell asleep with a book in my lamp and a highlighter in my hand. I worked long into the wee hours of the night as I wrote lines of poetry. I also wrote some last-minute crap after a night of pure fussing over a single first paragraph. In the end, I graduated from college with good grades and a senior thesis that made me proud.
After college, my career has taken a not-so creative turn as I’ve worked in event coordination to community outreach to librarianship to web quality testing. Despite this strange career path, my creativity has proven helpful along the way as I’ve provided written communications for a bookstore, coordinated large community events, and developed web-based training materials. As I settled into my tech job, I began to feel this urge to make stuff. Suddenly, I must draw, paint, sculpt, and solder or else I am not me.
So, there you have it: I lost my art, and I am beginning again with the belief that my art is mine alone to give to the world.