Artis­tic Mixed Per­cep­tions

Some­time around the age of eight or so, I had de­cided I was not “artis­tic.” Per­haps it was the move from free­wheel­ing fin­ger paint to more pre­cise pen­cil crayons that did it.

Ottawa Business Journal - Ottawa at Home - - LIVING ON SECOND THOUGHT - Writ­ten by LAURA BYRNE PA­QUET Illustration by RON MARTIN

In high school, I was re­lent­lessly egg-headed. In­stead of Span­ish, I took cal­cu­lus. In­stead of mu­sic, I took physics. And in­stead of art, took bi­ol­ogy.

The first two choices were cat­a­strophic for my av­er­age. ( To this day, the word “vec­tor” makes me break out in a cold sweat.) And the last one, while not so dan­ger­ous to my marks, was prob­a­bly the worst choice of all.

Some­time around the age of eight or so, I had de­cided I was not artis­tic. Per­haps it was the move from free­wheel­ing fin­ger paint to more pre­cise pen­cil crayons that did it. Or per­haps it was my com­plete in­abil­ity to “Draw Sparky” as the cor­re­spon­dence course ads on the back of the comics page urged me to do.

What­ever the rea­son, as the years went on, I be­came con­vinced that art was some­thing only “artsy” peo­ple did—and artsy I was not. Dur­ing a long-ago game of Pic­tionary, my at­tempted draw­ing of a coy­ote had such dis­pro­por­tion­ate ears that I still snort with laugh­ter at the mere men­tion of what in­stantly be­came known in my family as Coy­ote Bunny.

Yet, strangely, I was also a gallery rat. When­ever I trav­elled, I usu­ally wan­dered into a mu­seum, where I found my­self drawn to what I called col­lages.

I fig­ured my at­trac­tion to them was yet more ev­i­dence of my lack of artis­tic sophistication. Weren’t col­lages what we made on rainy af­ter­noons at Brownie camp? De­spite their pres­ence in posh gal­leries, I doubted they were “real” art.

Then I came across the term “mixed me­dia,” which de­scribed any kind of art that com­bined more than one medium—paint and pa­per, for in­stance. Now that sounded suf­fi­ciently high­brow. Maybe my in­ter­est wasn’t so odd. And maybe, I thought, it was the sort of art some­one like me could learn to cre­ate.

My first step was to sign up for a cou­ple of week­end work­shops with Ch­eryl Poulin, a Dun­robin artist. I e-mailed her to find out whether some­one who barely knew one end of a paint­brush from the other could join. She re­as­sured me I’d be wel­come—and I was. When I came home with a cou­ple of can­vases I ac­tu­ally wasn’t ashamed to hang on the wall, I was ec­static.

Next, I signed up for two longer cour­ses at the Ot­tawa School of Art (OSA). By this time, I’d ac­cu­mu­lated quite a col­lec­tion of pa­per, pas­tels, acrylic paints, gesso, ad­he­sives and tools, which I stored in a clear plas­tic case. When I boarded my OC Transpo bus each week to head to class, I some­times no­ticed peo­ple look­ing at the case, and I felt a lit­tle thrill at the idea that some of them might ac­tu­ally think I was an artist.

I’ve taken a cou­ple of great OSA classes now, and I’m still very much a new­bie. But hey—Grandma Moses started paint­ing in her sev­en­ties and didn’t do so badly. I fig­ure I have at least a quar­ter of a cen­tury to catch up.

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