A bit of this and that...with added frangipani.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Aspiring to Be Artsy Fartsy

Recently, I shared a vision I had as a young person, a vision of what my future would hold as a grown-up. What I didn't mention is that my vision had two versions. The second version involved my pursuing an artistic career and becoming a graphic artist. This vision was way fuzzier, I admit.

Throughout high school, I always evenly distributed my course load between academic subjects, so I could get into university one day, and art classes because I was always good at art. Good, not great. If I was great at art then I wouldn't feel the need to hedge my bets with the academic classes would I?

The problem with my artistic endeavours was that I was a perfectionist, and I couldn't just let myself be free with my drawing and painting. If it wasn't 'picture' perfect, it just wasn't good enough, and it crippled my creativity. I would spend tortuous hours, drawing and rubbing out, painting and painting over, everything I did. It was so I didn't really enjoy the craft. I did it because it was a fairly easy way to get good grades. Even the subject matter wasn't really something that I felt deep within my soul. It was simply chosen to satisfy the criteria of my assignments. I wasn't a true artist, and it is probably all well and good that I never really chased that dream.

Painting of St Basil's Cathedral done in Year 12.
See that top spire? It's lopsided, but I'm learning to ignore it.

I met my Grade 12 art teacher on the street a couple of years after graduation. During the course of our conversation, I felt the inexplicable need to tell him that I was no longer doing art. What did I think, that he would be pleased to hear that his art students were so uninspired that they dropped art the minute they left the classroom? Why did I feel the need to say it? It's because I wanted him to tell me that it was some grand mistake and that I should be nurturing my talent and that I should go back to that canvas and paint, Shelly, paint! I wanted him to stroke my ego. He didn't. In fact, there was kind of an awkward silence. We struggled for something further to say, and we parted ways with a small wave.

Was I right not to go after a career where the assessment of your work is so subjective, where my perfectionism would be a hinderance? Probably, but I can't help but wonder what it would have been like to be in a more creative role today. I love to look at artwork and I appreciate the effort it takes to create it.

"Rainbow Web" - A drawing I did for the boys' playroom.
I liked everything except the actual spider.

Now that I am older, I'd like to have a crack at drawing and painting for the sake of it, allowing myself to make mistakes, to rip off the page or paint over the canvas and start again, or heaven forbid...leave the imperfection there. So I'd like to start with drawings on scrap paper so I won't care if I make a mistake and have to chuck the paper in the bin. Who knows? With practice, I might be able to create something that I like. Mr F, you can rest easy, I won't let this extraordinary talent go to waste! I know you were worried, for the sake of art lovers everywhere!

Do you have any talents that are lying latent? I reckon it's never too late to stoke that fire, unless you wanted to become a child actor, I'm afraid it's too late for that.


  1. Wow, so talented. It's never too late, Shelley. I really believe that. x

  2. Nice paintings... and nice blog!


  3. My mom used to spend a lot of time doing those Doodleart posters. I had completely forgotten about them!

    I just checked out Moira's website http://www.moiracarlson.com/ You're right she does some great quirky art. I especially liked Goose Meditation and Goose for Dinner. :)

  4. I loved the cake you did with the dragon on it, yet you thought it wasn't any good. I'd love to see some of your drawings someday Helene. Thanks for the kind words. Somebody suggested art journalling, I might look into that as a way of letting loose.

  5. I forgot to mention in my excitement about telling you about the book. I'm seriously impressed with your art especially your ability to capture light and shadows. I would agree with your observations about your paintings, but does it matter? Quirky is good. It creates interesting tension. If you want a photographic copy, take a photograph.

    Do you remember Barry Carlson? His wife Moira is an artist who also captures light and shadow brilliantly - her art is very quirky - look her up. I think you'd love her art. BTW she did lots of the illustrations for the original doodleart back in the '70s

  6. First of all, I have to say that your art is super impressive!!  You have such talent!!

    Okay, now with that being said, I'm a perfectionist too and that usually stands in my way and hinders my creativity.  I love to draw and you know I've taken on the role as cake baker in my family.  Friends and family rave about my designs and drawings but I'm such a perfectionist that I refuse to accept the compliments.

    So I totally understand where you're coming from!  But I do think you should start drawing and painting again....you have an obvious talent!  

  7. Well I never knew that about you, Linda. Your family is so talented, with your artistic talent and your sister's writing talent!

  8. You know, I can't blog when hubby is looking over my shoulder, so maybe we both have performance anxiety! :-)

  9. Dawn that sounds like exactly what I need. I'll check it out, thanks!

  10. Hey Shell; Reading your post made me think of a book I have called "What it is" by Lynda Barry. She's a cartoonist who had a strip in the Georgia Strait - Ernie Pook's Corner, about the same time that Matt Groeing did (I think they are friends). It's about her journey learning to draw and how she feels about what she calls the two questions "Is it good?" and "Does it suck?". It's also a workbook with lots of prompts and exercises, and it's all drawn on yellow legal pads - yes, actual scrap paper. She has another book called "Picture This" which might also interest you. Her style is all about loosening up and letting go of perfections.

  11. Wow Shelly! That is a secret talent. Lovely!! I played piano for years. Went to 4th grade AMEB exams with honours...then gave up. I rarely play now but I should. I love it, but I don't like anyone watching. My fingers freeze!

  12. I too can be a bit of a perfectionist sometimes and enjoyed many years working as a graphic artist in a busy inner city art studio/advertising agency before I became a mummy. I loved the creativity involved and taking pride in my work. I felt like I really "got it" from client briefing to final result and it was so satisfying to see my designs in magazines and on the occasional bus or billboard. But, as with any job, it has a downside...deadlines, moody clients who don't understand your angle, long hours, unpaid overtime, did I mention ridiculous deadlines? I try to block those things out of my memories and I'm still left with the romantic notion about how wonderful it is to create something and be proud of it. My advice? Go forth and create young lady! It just feels good! Don't be so hard on yourself either. Try to remember that others don't see the tiny errors that glare at you. Think I might finally get that giant jigsaw puzzle out of the cupboard I've been secretly yearning to do. Who knows? I may even move up from a 1,000 piece to a 10,000 piece when I get the courage!


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