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.
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.