I have a secret; one that may cause my Arts Council membership to be revoked. A secret so shameful that I fear judgement on my character will be swift and irrevocable once you know. But I have carried this burden too long, so here it is: I failed art in elementary school.
Now I know you are asking yourself, “How does a child fail art?” Did I have an insatiable habit of devouring paste and then wash it down with tempera paint water? Did I recklessly run with scissors through the aisles of my classroom all while recreating battle scenes from Braveheart? No, worse. I could not draw a bowl of fruit.
Mrs. M. (let’s refer to her as ‘M’, though not to be confused by the beloved James Bond character) had a desire to turn her grade 4 students into still life drawing experts. M would select objects for us to draw and we were to produce replicas on our paper. I resisted. Well, let’s say my hands resisted. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get the image I was seeing through my brain and out through my hands while guiding my pencil. I would look at the bowl and then look down at my paper and it was as if, in those few moments, there was a significant communication error. I would pep talk myself, “Apple, orange, banana, bowl, all you need to reach your goals!”
M. had little patience for those unwilling to express their technical drawing skills at age 8 and less patience for children who rhymed.
I still remember reading over that pink carbon copy report paper, after my mom, in a bewildered voice said, “How did you manage to get a D in art?”
That little letter haunted me. Throughout the rest of elementary school I avoided anything related to art. When a group poster or other creative activity was assigned, I would quickly announce to everyone that “I can’t draw” or “I’m bad at art” or “I am so not creative”. I shared those statements throughout my high school years too, all the way through my university studies.
Something changed in my 20’s though. I moved to England when I was 23. I was wandering in a bookshop when I spotted a magazine stand with all sorts of arts and craft titles. I was drawn to one called “Let’s Make Cards” and it contained everything you needed to make simple Christmas cards. I thought it would be a great way to send something special to my friends and family back in Canada so I bought it and made about a dozen cards. Then I couldn’t stop. I started making cards for every occasion. Then I began learning new techniques. Stamping, layering, painting, embossing. It felt incredible!
Fast forward several years later and I am now an active member of the NVCAC, I manage the Artisan Gift Shop, I teach several art classes, and continue to create cards and other items under Pink Room Crafts.
Why did I share this story? Because I know lots of you out there have uttered the words, “I am terrible at art”. Often, participants in my classes enter the studio space and announce to me, “I am not creative”. I will let you in on another secret; You don’t have to be creative to engage in art. Creativity can be elusive, off-putting, and a term full of pressure to be innovative and wholly unique. It is more important to be curious, explorative, and okay with leaving your comfort zone. You will find that if you have those things, creativity will come and then nothing will hold you back, not even a failing grade.