What My Grade-School Self Taught Me About Owning My Art

I wasn't quite grade school age here, but those pigtails!

I wasn’t quite grade school age here, but those pigtails!

When I was in first or second grade, my class read a book and then did an art project based on it. I don’t remember what the book was about, but I remember that the main character was a ho-hum-looking man. The assignment was to draw clothes on the paper doll version of the main character in the style of any activity we wished. Some put leather jackets on him, some made him a painter or a fighter.

Keep in mind that this was the early cusp of the 90s, so 80s fashion was still prominent. I decided to do something a bit different and outfit the guy in workout clothes—short shorts, lemon-yellow headband, and all.

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“Funky Doodle” Colored Pencil and Micron Pen in sketchbook

There are two things I’ll never forget about this assignment after seeing the bulletin board with all of my classmates’ paper renditions of this book character. The first is how awesome my friend’s outfit came out. She was known for being a fantastic artist, even at that young age. Her paper doll looked like he was ready for the cover of a J. Crew catalog. He sported a smartly cut-out leather jacket made of brown construction paper, complete with a drawn-on zipper. Her paper doll had swagger.

The second thing is this: I admired the bulletin board behind two of my classmates. They pointed out their own work, then began commenting on the work of others. I’ll never forget what one of them said. He swept his eyes across the bulletin board and exclaimed to his friend, “I like all of them…except that one.” He was pointing to mine.

I don’t think the two boys knew I was behind them. I’m pretty sure they didn’t even know the paper doll outcast one of them had just singled out was mine. All I know is that one sentence rung so deep in me because it pointed out something I already felt: I’m no good at art.

Two-minute sketch of Wonder Woman. Much swagger. Such wow!

Two-minute sketch of Wonder Woman. Much swagger. Such wow!

Writing was a different story. That has always come fairly easily to me. My mom recently told me that around this same time in my school career, the stories I wrote during free time were shown to the principal because my teachers thought they were that good.

Yet I was hung up on that paper man. I knew that, technically speaking, mine wasn’t the best or most attractive of the outfits. But, dammit, I’d spent time on it!

I’ve gone back to this memory a few times throughout my life, convincing myself that perhaps it meant I shouldn’t pursue art in the public eye because people will react like my classmate: love absolutely everything out there except what I make. But I’ve recently come to the conclusion that praise isn’t what truly matters (though it is nice). Community does.

And I now accept that paper man with short shorts and headband that I made all those years ago (though he doesn’t hold a candle to the snow lady I drew around that same time. She had a red bandana and nunchucks, a la Ninja Turtle style).

"Circle Study" Micron Pen in Sketchbook

“Circle Study”
Micron Pen in Sketchbook

In years passed, I’ve set out to make art more regularly and it never quite worked out so well. This year, I’m making it one of my goals to do a bit of art once per week, even if it’s a little doodle and even if I end up doodling a male Jane Fonda like my grade-school self did. And, dammit, I will own every last bit of it.

(Note: all photos in this blog post are part of this project so far. Already on a roll!)

IMG_1276Want to join me in owning your art? Include the hashtag #arteveryweek2015 on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. There are no restrictions on the type of media you use. Just have fun! Let’s collect our creations via this hashtag and create a community of artists that says, “We love all of them!” No exceptions 🙂

5 Little Things That Are Simply Splendid

As I got ready to leave work yesterday, I was quite excited with the thought of the maple sweet mashed potatoes I would be making as my dinner side dish.  I thought of how awesome this simple food dish is, which got me thinking of all the little things I love.  So as an exercise in gratitude, I made a list of five “small things” I absolutely love and make my life that much easier/enjoyable (I didn’t include family, friends, or God because I think those are implied.  They are also not little ;-)).

1. New Book Smell – I know the world is moving to e-books and, to be honest, I may go that way someday myself.  But nothing can replace the awesome smell of pages fresh from the press.  As a kid, I loved smelling books.  To this day, I still smell the pages when I get an order in from Amazon.  I know, I’m weird.

2. Baby Laughter – Seriously, how can you not hear them laugh and keep a straight face?  I don’t have a kid and don’t want kids for quite some time.  But when I’m out and see a little munchkin in her stroller, I always smile.  The heartiness of a baby’s laugh provides a bright spot on even the most crap-worthy day.  Case in point:

See?  You couldn’t keep yourself from smiling could you?

3. Tabbed Internet Browsing – I’m really ADD when I surf the web.  The ease of pressing CTRL + T to get the information I want is such a fabulous convenience.  Every now and then, I’m on a computer that isn’t mine and isn’t equipped with tabbed browsing.  The clutter of all those windows brings about my sad panda face 😦

My Wikipedia-famous Posh Spice picture

4. Bobby Pins – For most of my life, I had super long hair (mid-back length).  I cut it short when I graduated college in 2008 and haven’t looked back since.  For a while I looked like Posh Spice with the short back and longer bangs.  Then I cut it even shorter.  Now I have a pixie cut with long-ish bangs.  This is when I became fond of bobby pins.  I can’t put my hair in a pony tail, but I don’t like having bangs in my face most of the time.  Bobby pins are a simple wonder that I am infinitely grateful for.  Eating my bangs doesn’t sound pleasant.

5. Maple Sweet Mashed Potatoes – While the thought of eating my bangs is unpleasant, I could eat sweet mashed potatoes every day!  And they are so simple to make.  I use the recipe found in Jae Steele’s book “Get It Ripe.”  She adds a bit of maple syrup to her mashed ‘taters and I have to say it’s a delicious addition!  Here is the batch that I made last night:

Om nom nom!

What’s one “small thing” you would add to this list?

Want to Know If You’re Fashion Saavy? Ask My Male, Straight, Colorblind Roommate

This is Fletcher:

As you can see from the picture, Fletcher likes shiny things.  Fletcher also has a pension for sharp objects and fire.  Fletcher and I are roommates.

We had a discussion a little while back about fashion.  I walked into the apartment with a pair of boots whose heels had shattered.  The bottoms had completely fallen apart and the only reason I could still walk in them was because it was winter and snow had frozen inside the broken heels.  I mentioned to Fletcher that I needed a new pair of black boots and he asked, “Why?”  I told him that the heels were broken.

End of discussion, right?  Nope.

Fletcher went off on this comical rant about how ice-heeled boots were all the winter rage.  He paced, he kind of raised his voice, he pointed his index finger!  I told him the shoes wouldn’t be so fancy when they melted, to which he replied that all I needed to do was stick them in the freezer all night, every night.

Since Fletcher’s wardrobe tends toward the denim and t-shirt camp, I questioned his fervor on the ice-heels.  How could he possibly speak with authority when he didn’t pay any attention to fashion (not to mention the fact that he’s colorblind, which can be a nightmare when trying to coordinate an outfit…or so I’ve heard)?

His answer?  “Since I’m straight I look at a lot of women, so I know what looks good on them.”  I couldn’t argue with that logic.

So if you really want to know if your fashion sense is up to speed, ask my male, straight, colorblind roommate (who sometimes poses for silly pictures):