Thursday, March 10, 2011

i am an artist.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

My carefully crafted and hand-sculpted nativity scene rested precariously in the bottom of my backpack, somehow protected from the math and English books, the stray pencils and the uncorked markers. It was everything I had imagined it to be, and I could not wait for the moment when I would arrive at home, able to show my artistic mother what I had created for our home.

As I gently removed the characters from their nesting place, I laid them out in the palms of my mother's hand, already encouraged by her wide eyes and grinning mouth.

"Oh, honey! These are just beautiful! What precious little manatees!"

I stared at her quizzically. What on earth was she talking about? Manatees? It was true, I had an obsession with the animals. I was the only girl in the third grade to have a 14-karat gold manatee necklace and a Save the Manatees t-shirt. But these handmade characters? These were the holy family, not the cows of the sea. I informed my mother of such, and rather loudly.

"These are not manatees! It's Mary and baby Jesus!"

My kind, doting mother was mortified at her mistake. The balls of clay resting in her hands were not manatees at all, just pudgy versions of the virgin and her baby. She quickly covered her tracks, complimenting my handiwork over and over and over again. Seventeen years later, she still places my sculpted nativity scene out at Christmastime, despite the fact that I now know exactly what she meant: Mary resembles -- quite remarkably -- a large, voluptuous manatee.

Last week, when a friend organized a group to go to a local art studio for a painting class, I wasn't at all hesitant. Despite of -- or because of -- my earliest art debacles, I have come to terms with the fact that I am creative, not artistic. My stick figures come out crooked, and I cannot cut a straight line to save my life. But I am creative, and finally, at 25, that is enough for me.

My expectations for the class itself were low. I dutifully paid my class fee and donned my apron, content with experiencing fun with friends rather than counting on any wall-appropriate artwork. Then, as the music played and the instructing began and the drinks began to flow, I realized: This was fun. Art is fun.

And I am convinced it may actually be more therapeutic than yoga.

The entire class was just the right kind of challenging. I was forced to take it slow (each layer of paint had to dry before we could continue). No one was grading me, so if I messed up, I didn't have a panic attack. I just tried again. No one really cared about my painting at all; I was free to do as I pleased. My friends and I giggled until we cried and let the paint fumes get to our heads.

As I painted each coat, I realized that so much has changed. I will probably always be a little bit perfectionist, a little bit like crazy Monica Gellar, but I am getting better. I wasn't concerned with what everyone else was doing, or whether or not my painting matched up. I just felt the flow of the paintbrush against canvas, the therapy behind each petal drawn and color mixed. 

You know what? The result wasn't half bad. Do the colors match anything in my house? Not really. But one of my new year's resolutions was to bring color into my home, and I don't intend on letting the proof of a fun evening hide in a closet somewhere. My painting will hang above my desk, a reminder of enjoying the moment, letting things go, and relishing the artistic -- not just creative -- side that is in us all.


For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you...

- Deuteronomy 7:6-8a


Staley Mc said...

We have a place like that here in Birmingham and I love going. I am definitely not an artist but somehow my paintings turn out looking normal! It's so fun

Jessica said...

I've always wanted to go to one of these places. Looks like fun!

Sugar Mama said...

cracking up laughing at the manatee story! I have done that SO many times to my own children when they brought home wonderfully creative pieces from art class at school.

Anonymous said...

Hahahahaha! Poor third grade Annie! Your later work seems to have developed into real, identifiable art. :) It's beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I love the manatees story - I feel like that's totally something that could have happened in our house.