Arts and crafts and other trauma

I’m trying to get back to posting regularly over here, but I’ve been writing and am fresh out of ideas for a blog post this week. Not that I’m going to let a simple thing like that stop me. I figure I’ll just ramble on for a bit and eventually I might make some kind of sense. Or not.

My mom has been cleaning out cupboards in her house. She has lived in that house since I was five years old, so you can imagine there is a bit of accumulated stuff tucked into the odd corner. Stuff that isn’t necessarily hers. And some stuff that is, regrettably, mine.

Seeing as how her polite suggestions that we box up our stuff and take it with us (I have three sisters and we all happily left various childhood treasures behind) have been largely ignored over the years, she recently decided to just do it herself. But there is some confusion about which stuff belongs to whom. This prompted a few phone calls and text messages this past weekend and one of those was my older sister texting a picture of some “artwork” and asking, “Is this yours?”

Sigh. Yes, I made that. In middle school, I think. It’s plaster poured into a milk carton, which we then had to carve into some kind of thing using blunt instruments. Pure torture. I hated every minute of it. I asked my mom to throw it out, but I suspect she’s going to pack it lovingly into a box so I can take it home with me one day. She seems determined to make me appreciate a creativity gene I just do not possess.

I am not artistic. Not when it comes to arts and crafts like drawing or painting or sculpture. Or sewing. Or cutting and pasting construction paper. Or anything to do with glitter or beads or styrofoam or toothpicks as construction material. I’m not good at it. I’ve always known I’m not good at it — all of my sisters are very talented in these areas and the contrast is stark and undeniable — and that doesn’t bother me. Really, I just don’t care. I have other talents.

Those of you relatively new to this blog might not realize that I am in fact somewhat infamous for my [lack of] drawing skills. After one of the first luncheon meet-ups of Imaginary Internet Friends, everyone demanded to see pictures. I hatehateHATE having my picture taken and refused to let anyone take any. Yes, I am a tyrant. So I drew this instead:

Everyone agreed it was hilariously pitiful. [I’d link to that blog post, but it was on a different blog and we broke it anyway.] Delighted my drawing was received with the silliness intended, I’ve continued in those efforts.

Here’s one from a couple years ago, of me having a fine needle aspiration biopsy of my thyroid:

And the aftermath [blog post and more “pics” here]:

And then there’s the one of me imagining my daughter calling me, as promised, after being eaten by a BEAR [blog post here]:

Lest you think I labour over these things, these are all first drafts. No do-overs. Well, except the bear. After the first attempt, I realized I’d better draw the stomach contents first, then fit the bear around it, er, her. Whatever.

I really don’t care if people laugh at my lack of artistry. I’ve been laughing at it all my life. Although, inexplicably, I did manage to create some adequate pottery back in high school. Maybe I’ll round up a few pieces . . . here, I think there are a few upstairs too, but these are the ones I gathered up in a quick tour downstairs. I made these and I like them:

Anyway, back to drawing. I found this link through twitter and it totally cracked me up: Draw a stick man.

This is perfect for me! I’ve actually drawn several now and it makes me laugh every time when it becomes animated and moves clumsily through the little story, aided by other clunky items also drawn by me. I thought I was bad with a marker pen, you should see the results using a fingertip and the track pad on my MacBook. Or maybe you shouldn’t.

Is there anything like this you know you’re just not good at? Something you always hated but did it anyway because it was required at school? Can you laugh about it now or is it still a source of frustration or embarrassment?

Or are you really good at arts and crafts and wish you were back in school where you had unlimited supplies and an excuse to sniff paste indulge your inner artist? It’s okay to admit it, I won’t think less of you. As long as you don’t make me join in.


Filed under creativity, laughter

17 responses to “Arts and crafts and other trauma

  1. McB

    Your “plaster poured into a milk carton” creation is a lot better than mine was. I think I actually started with an idea, but quickly decided to embrace the concept of modern free-form impressionism. It was still pretty awful. I’m pretty sure chucked it the day after I brought it home or my mom really would have kept it, sentimental fool that she is.

    My lack-of-skill frustration was gym class. I have no coordination, no speed, no strength, no sense of balance, no aim … basically I can walk upright only by concentrating hard and that doesn’t leave room for anything fancy, like summersaults.

    (p.s. I remember the IIFs as having more hair than that)


  2. OMG, you did the plaster in a milk carton thing too?! Looking back now, it’s sort of like a mob conspiracy to teach kids how to dispose of bodies, just switch out plaster for concrete and a larger container… You know, if they’d mentioned that at the time, I’m sure I could have carved out something far more creative. Disturbing, perhaps, but more creative.

    And geez, yes, I dreaded gym class. I was good at sit-ups. And swimming. That was it.

    (ps- The hair was a last minute addition after I decided it was odd that everyone was bald and looked a bit like Charlie Brown. I can’t draw hair. Be glad you got a few tufts.)


  3. I love your milk carton art! I don’t remember doing one of those although I’m sure I did. I was the kid who always had glue and glitter in her hair. Today though I do love doing scrapbooking and crafts of different sorts. I’m not the best at it but I enjoy it anyway. The funny thing is, I remember the exact moment I believed I was a horrible artist. I was in kindergarden. We had just heard the story Charlotte’s Web, and the teacher told us to draw a spider in a web for our art project. I remember being so proud of this web I drew. I thought it was the most beautiful thing ever created. I went to the teacher (who in my eyes was really, really old. Ancient. She was probably 40 ;-). She took one look at it, crumpled it up into a ball and threw it into the trash as she said “Now go back and do it right.”

    I burst into tears, and ran into a corner where the teacher’s aide, a really nice young girl, found me and gave me hugs and told me how beautiful it was. She had dug it out of the trash and smoothed it out. But it didn’t matter. The damage was done. I didn’t draw until a few years ago, didn’t even try. I was telling this story to a friend at work (he’s a designer and ridiculously talented artist. He’s one of those people who drips talent, you know?). He told me everyone is an artist. You draw something that is unique to you, and it’s just as special as anything anyone else does. So with his encouragement, I took a painting class. You know what’s really amazing? It turns out I can paint. Maybe not like Rembrandt, but I kinda like how the stuff turns out. Apparently so did another student, because she asked to borrow one of my canvases that I had painted a still life on, and she never brought it back.

    Still too intimidated to draw though. Just goes to show the power teachers hold in the palm of their fist. Could I have been an artist? I’ll never know. How sad is that?

    Looking at your pottery I’d say you are an artist too :-). I’ve never been able to turn out anything but a lump! And I love those drawings. I also know a guy who is making quite a bit of money off drawings just like it. Check out The Oatmeal sometime 🙂


  4. Oh, Melinda! I want to smack that teacher upside the head. What an awful thing to do to a child. Or to anyone. That’s just heartbreaking. Now I want you to sit down tonight and draw everything you’ve always wanted to draw. I bet it would be awesome.

    No one ever told me I wasn’t good at it, it was just so obvious to me. And I never enjoyed it. I hated doing craft projects. I’d even cringe a bit inside when my kids had to do them, although they seemed to enjoy it.

    I loved throwing pots. But it never seemed like arts and crafts. It was just different. (Yes, I love The Oatmeal. But those drawings show obvious talent. Completely different. 8) ).


  5. GatorPerson

    I did a tray once with a gray seal in it with a red ball on his nose. My total claim to art class fame. My DF kept that seal for years and years. The next year and thereafter those of us who wanted could go to band class instead. And so I did.


  6. McB

    Yep, I still remember other kids turning out recognizable stuff that matched what they were going for. I still don’t know how they did that.

    But you and the pots (which I really like, btw) sound like me and crochet. It’s as close as I come to creating art.


  7. GP, I played violin in the orchestra for seven years. I wasn’t particularly good at that either. But I’ve seen your amazing artistry with fabric and yarn. You have talent.

    McB, I don’t think I had a vision of what I wanted it to look like. I just wanted someone to tell me it was done and I could STOP. And yes, I’ve seen your yarn work. You’re gifted in that as well.


  8. Um… um… I knitted a sweater for my dog once, does that count?
    Probably not. She made a point to hide it in the back of the yard behind very thick bushes. Plus, for some reason, she ran a lot of sharp pointed sticks into the sweater as it lay on the ground. Probably to make sure it didn’t rise again to haunt her.


  9. Tanji was a very smart baby wolf dog. She knew that colour didn’t flatter her glossy mane. Not a comment on your knitting skills at all. Probably.


  10. Melinda

    Oh, now THERE is something I’m completely horrible at! Knitting and crochet. My mother tried her best to teach me. I started to knit a scarf and by the time I was finished one end was a foot wide and the other was 2 inches wide lol. My stitches just got tighter and tighter and tighter. And I hated it so much! And I remember in high school being forced to sew a pillow. On a sewing machine. Most evil contraption ever invented. After sewing my fingers several times I had to cheat and have my mother sew the darn pillow LOL. I’ll definitely leave that sort of thing, and all sewing in general, up to other people. I’ll gladly pay them to do it!


  11. First, KD, your drawings are hilarious. I especially love your reaction to the needle. I feel the same way about them. *shivers* I went to art school for college, which was mostly just a way to avoid having to do any math. Now there’s something I’m horrible at! My husband helps the kids with that homework, but craft related assignments, I’m ALL over.


  12. AH HA! I knew there was an artistic type lurking out there who wasn’t afraid to admit it! Adrienne, I can’t imagine how tortuous it would have been for me to go to an art school at the college level. I barely made it through grade school without slitting my wrists. Good for you! And thank you for seeing the hilarity in my drawings. There are so many things I’m incapable of taking seriously, and me drawing anything is near the top of the list. (Probably I shouldn’t mention that my day job is pretty much pure math.)

    Melinda, years ago I crocheted an afghan and it was the same kind of result as your scarf — increasingly tight and stressed out stitches. The stupid thing will keep you warm, it just won’t look good doing it. And sewing is a disaster for me too. I remember making a “shift” in middle school and then we were supposed to put it on and model it. The pattern was my size, yet I couldn’t even get the damn thing over my head. Not sure it even had two armholes. Pitiful. I’m fine with hand sewing, but if you put me in charge of a sewing machine you’d better also put in a preemptive call to the EMS guys. Hmmm. Actually, now that I think about it, that might not be a bad idea…


  13. Melinda

    Well if the EMS guys are hot I’m all over that ;-). Too funny, I did an liberal arts degree so I could avoid math too! I had to have one math class, dumbbell algebra. The only reason I passed was because the professor finally gave up trying to teach me. It was invisible numbers…just made absolutely no sense to me. Still doesn’t. If they are invisible, why are we trying to use them to solve problems? He spent hours trying to clear it up for me before giving the whole thing up as a bad job and stamping a “pass” on my test lol. If we had children, my husband would be the one helping with that homework for sure. He was a math major, and an MBA. Isn’t it funny how opposites attract sometimes?


  14. My major was photography, but we all had to do one year of foundadtion classes and then apply for our area of concentration. Two semesters of nude models was, um, interesting, but definitely less intimidating than algebra. Melinda, I can’t believe your teacher treated you like that! I hope you show her with every stroke of your brush that art is just as much about heart and determination as it is about talent. Maybe more so. Keep painting!


  15. Melinda

    That is why I always say teachers are undervalued, underpaid and under appreciated. The affect they have on all of us, for good or bad…they shape the future. OUR future. It didn’t matter how many people told me good things…what mattered was that one moment when that one teacher told me I was no good. I doubt that day made any impression on her at all. Most likely she was having a bad day. Most likely my spiderweb looked like scribbles because I was the most uncoordinated artist ever. On the plus side, I also remember my college English teacher who pulled me aside after class one day and told me “you should be a writer. This is really good” as she handed me back a short story assignment. I read it years later…it was crap. I seem to remember it was a story about a family of alcohol bottles. Daddy was Beer, Momma was Whiskey, and I can’t remember what type of babies they produced. I shudder to think. But, I went on to major in English, in large part because of her encouragement. And now here I am, unleashing my words on an unsuspecting public! Hmmm, which teacher did the right thing? We may never know lol. Funny the power they have, so much more than parents even. Pay them more, I say. Pay them a LOT more. Sorry, just feeling philosophical tonight. My Mac family has lost a parent, and I can’t help but reflect at a moment like this. On the Mac I found a place I could do art that didn’t need hand-eye coordination. I’ll be forever grateful for my Mac, and for Photoshop :-D.


  16. Melinda, I was surprised by how upset I was to hear Steve Jobs died. I have a MacBook and I LOVE IT, but I’ve never considered myself “a Mac” like some people do. I don’t have any other iThings, but I felt that loss more than I would have thought I might. So sad. He died way too young.

    I completely agree with you about teachers. But then my dad was a HS English teacher. When he died several years ago, it was overwhelming the number of notes and letters my mom received, from former students and/or their parents, saying what a huge impact he’d had on their lives. We don’t pay them nearly enough — neither money nor respect.

    And you are NOT the most uncoordinated artist ever. Stop that. Do what you love, what you enjoy doing, whether that’s painting or writing, and to hell with what others think. Don’t let one woman’s ill-considered words continue to have that kind of power over you. I haven’t read any of your writing other than comments here, but I do enjoy your voice. Keep moving forward with confidence.


  17. Those are funny pictures.