Budding rock artist
Fun fact: if you’d ask me circa 1990 what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was an artist.
Before I ever dreamed of chasing storms in Tornado Alley or writing the great American novel, I thought I had some serious drawing skills. I did not, but my elementary school art teacher was really nice — and I daresay she put some unrealistic expectations in my head.
That wasn’t her fault, though; she was just being supportive, which is an excellent quality in an instructor. Shaping young minds and all. But I did change career ideas thanks to her submitting my checkerboard/ optical illusion butterfly print into a county fair competition — earning me an honorable mention ribbon. An honorable mention! Bet you didn’t know that about me, eh?
In the years since I was drawing and making my sister laugh with ridiculous “comics” about a sarcastic bunny (named Carrot — impressive creativity), I accepted that interest and talent are really two different things.
It’s like singing. I love it, especially in the car with my children as a captive audience, but I’m well aware that my screeching could stop traffic. I was active in high school theatre but dreaded auditioning for the spring musicals; my enthusiasm meant I always got a bit part, but there is no exquisite torture quite like breaking glass on stage in front of friends, competition and the dozen boys I had a crush on day to day.
If my rendition of “The Little Mermaid” classics like “Part Of Your World” didn’t wow anyone, my teachers felt sorry enough for me to make sure I had a role in the chorus. I did everyone a favor by simply lip-synching once we approached opening night.
That? I was good at that. I’m great at remembering lyrics, oddly; I can tell you every breath taken in my favorite songs, though hearing me actually sing with John Mayer would change your view of me forever.
Art is . . . kind of similar. I recognize what I like and often have ideas for cute prints and graphic design, but trying to actually create these things is challenging. My son is old enough that we’re now coloring and drawing together. My contributions to the blank canvas of his own notebook pages typically involve hearts, suns or “stars” (just asterisks drawn with crayon, really). Oliver doesn’t know any better, so he thinks this is cool. The other day he declared one of my sketches “awesome,” his new favorite term, and I glowed like I used to when he’d clap after my solos.
That’s right: the kid would clap. For me. And did I bask in that? Absolutely. We’re already to the point that seeing me dance apparently embarrasses him — a parenting milestone, I think. Lately he’s been making some not-so-subtle suggestions that I take a seat with phrases like, “No, Mommy! Couch.” Ouch. But my art? My drawings are still cool. The interest is definitely there, though it’s been years since I attempted anything more complex than drawing a sun wearing sunglasses. Remember the wine and design class my sister and I recently took? That’s the first time I’ve held a paintbrush in ages . . . and I liked it. Enough to want to keep going.
The Kindness Rocks Project sweeping Southern Maryland seemed a good excuse to dig out my paint and get to work. Well, “dig” is a relative term; I just had to buy new stock to make sure I had enough color options, of course.
What’s great about the rocks you may have seen collecting on windowsills, benches and ledges in La Plata, Lusby, Leonardtown and everywhere in between is that you don’t need any particular “talent” to participate; I’m proof of that. It’s just about the effort.
One of the more frustrating parts of being a parent is the inability to spend more than 30 seconds on a task. After discovering some rocks two weeks ago, I wanted to paint my own. I thought about positive messages I could share — the sort of notes I would be thrilled to find — and contemplated color schemes.
It took days for me to actually get rocks. Then days to apply a base of purple paint, let it dry and scrawl my notes. Another few days to return after some basic drying time, and still more time to seal it before setting them loose.
What someone else could probably accomplish in an hour took me more than a week — mostly because I can’t focus until after the kids go to bed, and by then I feel like I need to physically prop my eyelids open. That “me” time apart from dinner, bath time and preparing lunches for the next day would have to wait.
But it’s not about how long it takes you to climb the hill; the view is still amazing. Painting three simple rocks took ages, but I sealed and released them into the wild on Monday. They almost didn’t make it out of my house as Ollie took an immediate shine to them. “Rocks! It’s rocks,” he said, over and over and over, and I nodded politely while my “You Matter” stone was used like a crab mallet on his Mr. Potato Head.
He couldn’t really hurt it. I mean: it’s a rock. But I was hoping to spread positivity on Monday, so I had to protect my handiwork.
That meant waiting until he lost interest in the stones and dropped them. Then I could hide them somewhere he was unlikely to spot them — my own version of a rock drop.
Let’s just hope I can find them again. Have you seen this place? The toy box that has become a toy living room?
If I can’t track the stones down, I’ll just assume Ollie needed them.
And hey — someday I’ll find them and really inspire myself.