Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Creative Monsters

One learns by doing a thing; for though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try. Sophocles
These are the beginnings of my art journey and the encounters with creative monsters along the way. I was in kindergarten. One day we got a piece of paper with two big circles printed on. We were told do decorate the "plate" in whichever way we wanted. I chose blue and green colored pencils and decided I wanted my plate to have strong patches of colors. The other kids drew tiny well-behaved, pastel flowers. Not me! I remember holding my father's hand when he came to pick me up. The teacher showed him my drawing and told him how "I did not follow the rules" and "how nice the other kids drew" compared to my unruly patches of bold colors. I remember looking down, ashamed.
In grade 1 we have been given the task of drawing a scene from a fairy tale. I chose Snow White. I had a puzzle with 4 scenes from the fairy tale. I picked the scene with Snow White and the hunter. My father taught me how to make a grid on the paper with the image, how to draw the same number of proportionate squares on the drawing paper and how to draw what I saw in every square. It took forever. I was 6. It was late at night and I was tired. But the drawing was due the next day. Going to school without the homework was not an option. My father supervised the process. "Not like that! Look at the line. Where does it start? Where does it finish? Don't you see it is not like that?" I hated Snow White, I hated school and above all, I hated drawing. But I got it done and, once I got some sleep, I was proud of myself. Nobody had such an elaborate drawing. I was happy. My efforts paid off. But my classmates accused me of cheating ...

When I was 7, I went on a field trip to the cultural centre. I was introduced to new activities that I could try if I wanted. There was weaving and pottery and clay sculpting and cross stitch and gymnastics and so much more. I put my name down for 7 classes - one for each day of the week. While I was down in the basement to check on the clay sculpting class, I saw a row of clay portraits lined up on a table to dry. I could not help myself and touched the sculptures, smoothing the faces. They were so pretty now! Not so thought the teacher. "Why did you touch them? You ruined my sculptures!" Regardless of this incident I was happy with the activities chosen and looking forward to the classes. Until I got home, that is. My mother's reaction was anything but encouraging. "You have homework to do. There is nobody to bring you there and back. It is out of the question that you go EVERY DAY. Plus, you have to baby sit your sister". I tried to struck a deal, but it did not work out. I slowly dropped out of all the classes.

I grew up dreading the art classes. We were not taught anything. I do not remember discussions about perspective, color combination etc. I tried conjuring memories of these classes and nothing surfaces. I knew by then I had no talent. One had to be born an artist, one had to be "special" to be an artist (like poor, drunk, dressed like a beggar, eccentric, somewhat marginalized and so on). I was none of these things.

I did not think I knew art. I decided to learn by doing, one step at a time. It all started about 10 years ago. I had a drawing period, a paper-making period, an oil painting period, a clay sculpting period. Now I am transitioning into the mixed media/collage/altered art period. These are some of my paintings. Now, if I can only figure out the secret of taking pictures for the web!

I wonder how other artists dealt with their own Creative Monsters.