Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Practice makes an angry Scribe

"Every artist was first an amateur."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don't know where I "inherited" this trait, but I'd like to obliterate it immediately: No matter what I tackle, whether it be a painting or sport, I need to be good at it right away. There is no learning curve with me. Okay, there is, but I don't think it should exist. I believe, in my infinite wisdom, that I should be good at everything I try. The very first time. With absolutely no experience. Now you can see how I really need to change this trait. It serves me no purpose than to get me aggravated and it’s so annoying to the people around me who don’t have the same unrealistic expectations of themselves.

This trait reared its ugly head this past Sunday during my final art class. The concept was a painting that evoked winter or Christmas. Since I’m not a big Christmas person (you can pick up your chins off the floor now), I chose Winter Solstice, deciding on a snowy scene with winter sky, rolling, snow-encrusted hills, a frozen pond and – here’s the kicker – quaint, almost cartoon-like houses.

My houses looked a little like this, but worse.

The process went smoothly through the hills and over the pond, and then it came to the situating and drawing (in pencil) of the houses. I used a card as inspiration – they looked a lot like the tiny, colourful houses of PEI. I had planned include the cute elements of a bird bath and a clothing line of socks and underwear. I would have fit on Nona’s brassiere if I had the room.

I must explain that I’m not good with drawing. It doesn’t look life-like; often it’s out of proportion and doesn’t even slightly resemble what it’s meant to be. A bird bath? It’s a big circle resting on a cylinder. It looked more like Alexander Graham Bell’s first attempt at a telephone receiver.

But I soldiered on, painting the structure of the houses, windows, walkways and even that much-anticipated, frozen clothing line. And then it was time for snow. And sparkle. My art instructor ensured me that I was just missing this magic element – I couldn’t see the forest for the trees – it would all fall into place.

It didn’t. The houses looked juvenile and out of place compared to what I considered a really good backdrop of snow drifts, hills and pond. There are some 5-year-olds who, I’m sure, could have done a better job.

Why couldn’t I just spew forth a masterpiece as easily as I do with the written word? But, I had forgotten all of the not-so-pristine articles, stories and poems I had written to get to this point. I had forgotten the practice sessions. And I always do.

I’m going to borrow from that great wordsmith Emerson again with a quote that I stumbled upon: “Every artist was first an amateur.” It’s amazing I can be inspired one minute by this quote and then, relating it to my life and my abilities, throw it out the window and have myself a good old temper tantrum.

Robbie, bless his artistic heart, tried to bolster me. But I didn’t need bolstering. I needed to hear those words from Emerson: “This is your first time doing detailed work. You don’t have all the techniques yet, so stop your sniveling and get on with it.”

I’ve already warned Anasatan that this no-so-masterpiece will be her gift. From me to her. The PEI houses, no matter how juvenile, reminded me of our trips out East. I’m just glad the actual houses were not built by 5-year-olds.


  1. lol Well at least that gives you the ability to try things. I always assume I am just going to suck straight away so why bother? It took me a long time to try learning bagpipes, and I still have moments now where I think I'm just never ever going to get good at it.

  2. Ah my dear Scribe, I will hang the picture with pride! But you should know, in case I have never told you, I am hypercritical of myself, and think any output of mine is absolute crap. We both know where we got that idea, now we just need to help each other get rid of it.

  3. i look back on most of my early attempts at stuff and laugh a lot - so think of this experience as storing up a giggle for later

  4. Oh, I'm laughing Lulu! Thanks for encouragement. I think I'll continue. Next class is a little more abstract and I think that suits me better.

    Anasatan, it better not go in the bathroom or the laundry room! I think we're all hypocritical of the things we do, thanks to the voices in our head. I'd like to stuff a sock in mine.

    Aunt, I used to be like that and didn't try things for fear of failing. I'm getting over it slowly. Keep up the bagpipes. I think you're better than you give yourself credit too!

  5. I'm with Lulu!! Happens to all of us possum! My calligraphy teacher gets grumpy at us for expecting to be perfect at each new thing. She insists we go home and practice. She also insists we think more like 5 year olds. Just do the thing and not worry about the result. You have to pin that one of Emerson on your toilet door ;-) And by the way, as usual - the person looking at your art does not know what you had envisaged. So to them (ie MOI) looks great, quirky, colourful and upbeat!! Let yourself have a result other than the one you were expecting!!