Art has always been important to me, although at times it may not have seemed like it. I remember when I was in kindergarten I actually had a note sent home with me one day because my coloring was so terrible. Well, it was terrible at school. When we had our coloring time in school I seemed to be completely unable to stay in the lines and turn out a respectable picture. At home, well, that was a different story. At home I could color like a champ, nice and neat, everything between the lines. My mother was more than a little surprised at the complaint from my teacher and sent one of the coloring pages I had completed quite neatly so she could see for herself that I wasn’t a complete failure. From that point on I promised to do my best coloring at school and I moved on with my life.
As I grew there were a couple of rather large stumbling blocks that I encountered with my art. The one that was the most devastating happened when I was 12 years old and in the seventh grade. By that time I had not only become first cellist in the school orchestra, but I had also fallen in love with science. I guess I’m just an all-around geek. In my science class we had been learning about heat and the different colors of flames and which colors corresponded to the coolest and hottest temperatures. Unfortunately, at the same time in my art class we were learning about warm and cool colors. We were given a test in art class and when asked what color I associated with heat I answered white, because in science I had learned that if something is white hot it’s really, really hot. When I got my test back and saw that I got that answer wrong I tried explaining to the teacher why I had given the answer I had given. Rather than acknowledge my confusion or try to explain to me that there is a difference in terms between art and science, my teacher proceeded to excoriate me, pointing out that I was an idiot and that I would never understand art. (No, I’m not exaggerating. I later found out that he was anti-Semitic, which could have added fuel to the fire as I’m Jewish.) His words cut me to the core, and until that time I had always thought that there was no right and wrong with art, but apparently I was wrong since I was flunking a class for the first time ever. At that moment I gave up on art and poured my creativity into other outlets.
When I was about twenty I tried my hand at art again. I had been watching Bill Alexander and was amazed at how he could turn nothing into something beautiful in just thirty minutes. Unfortunately my personal circumstances at that time were less than optimal and once again I had to shelve my art. Then when I was thirty-seven something amazing happened. Our son was born. Years before his arrival we had already decided that we would homeschool him for a couple of reasons, but after he was born there were even more reasons for us to homeschool, so we did. It was during our years of homeschooling, while I was trying to foster an appreciation and love for art in our son that my love for art reawakened.
During his academic career I made sure to include some type of art in most of his subjects, and when it was time to “do art” I tried to make it as fun and engaging as possible. We would also look at the work of different artists like Monet, O’Keeffe, and Van Gogh. Looking back I think it was more than fostering a love of art in our son, but rather fostering his creativity. Our art ran the range from crayons to watercolors to salt clay to Legos. I remember one summer we tried setting up a pendulum paint dispenser on the tree in our back yard. It was an epic failure, but we sure had fun! Even, or especially, in our failures I tried to remain positive and encouraging, always letting our son know that with art there is no right or wrong. Art is what it is, and whatever you create is just perfect. That’s not to say that a person can’t seek to improve their artistic skills, just that there should be no pressure on a person who is exploring art for the first, or fiftieth, time. Creativity is a very individual thing and art, in whatever form it takes, can be an excellent avenue to explore that creativity. I encourage you to give it a try and see where it might take you!