What a dreadful thing for a child, or adult, to believe about themselves, that they *can’t art*. This phrase is an old family chestnut, relating to what The Financier told his mother one day after school when he was young. It seems he deemed himself a failure in art class. This was back in the day when art, music, speech and gym were part of the everyday curriculum, with a grade given, like math, spelling, reading, science, etc. Frustrated with an inability to draw a perfect likeness, he believed himself to have no artistic gifts.
Instead of laughing along with the rest of his family when told this story of the cute childish grammatical error, I was horrified. It is untrue, of course. Everyone, and I mean ALL OF US can art. Art is not just drawing or painting or sculpting something in a representative way, it is the creative expression of something that exists deep down inside of us, all of us.
It comes more naturally to some, admittedly, but it exists in everyone and should be encouraged the most in children, is my belief. My dear friend Gail tells me I am left-brained, whatever that means. When looking up that phrase, an explanation was found about how the left-brained sometimes have a problem with creative expression, expecting perfection and giving up when it cannot be achieved.
This hit home with me for a very clear memory still inhabits my brain, left or right, about an experience from grade school. In art class, we were asked to bring a glass bottle of any size or shape from home for a paper mache, (or papier-mâché if you insist) project. My pop bottle was supposed to be made into a squirrel standing on its hind legs with tail up and curving, just like the ones I saw regularly in our backyard eating acorns. A wadded ball of paper was taped to the top for the head with masking tape. The tail, cut out of cardboard and also taped to the bottle, was bent to resemble the curve of the real thing. Strips of newsprint were torn and dipped into the wallpaper paste bowl and slathered on the squirrel on a bottle as best as we could. I painted the whole thing brown. It was a disaster and looked nothing like my vision. On the way out of class, I threw it in the trash.
Mrs. Denham, the art teacher, a very pretty and kind lady, saw what I had done. She called my name and took me into the supply closet. I was terrifed that I was in trouble. She produced the failed squirrel and asked if it was mine. I had to admit to it, and was ashamed. She then performed a feat of extreme magic with a paintbrush dripping with black tempera. She deftly drew a face on the squirrel, eyes, ears, nose and a mouth. Suddenly it became the vision, a masterpiece, even if the head was lumpy and the tail was crooked. She turned me around to follow the path of self confidence in artistic endeavors rather than believing that things I made were awful. It literally changed my life, that magic, and I think of her with respect and fondness to this very day.
The fear of imperfection can be crippling to creative juices. The lesson here is that every single child should be encouraged to express themselves through art, be it drawing, painting, clay, or just the combination of objects in a pleasing manner, cooking, writing, dance, anything at all. Consistently applaud their efforts, brag on their creations, praise them, buy them paints, don’t be a critic. Guide them to the path of self confidence. What matters is how they view themselves.
What brings this little homily to mind is something that The Financier made when we were trying to make the steps to climb the steep slope of the garden behind the main house. To my husband, function is much more important than looks. The steps at the end of the wall needed to be strong and well spaced. Attractiveness was not a consideration, but being aware of my need for aesthetically pleasing in the Fairegarden, his brain came up with the curving curbing at the top of the steps, seen above. I find it to be brilliantly beautiful, a testament to his artistic inner self.
While I make most of the gardening decisions around here, the making of this space into what it is today and will be tomorrow is a joint effort. The Financier has come up with many solutions to tricky topography, including the double wall under the garage deck and the two round planters gracing either side of the old steps that belonged to the house next door that was torn down so the garage could be built, with the earth scooped out to make it level with the main house. He can so, art. And so can you.
1. Dahlia ‘Gallery Cobra’, showing that Nature is the best in artfulness.
2. Detail of a woodpecker on a metal arbor at the North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville, a destination, perhaps, included at the 2012 Garden Bloggers Fling in that faire city.
3. Monarch butterflies on Dahlia ‘Bishop’s Children’, see number 1.
4. Squirrel eating a black walnut, taken from the back deck at Fairegarden-East in Asheville, NC.
5. Moss hummingbird made of chickenwire, click here to read its story.
6. Offspring of offspring expressing themselves with paints, taken Thanksgiving 2010.
7. Art example by The Financier, the ivy is now gone, for anyone horrified by the sight of it.
8. See number 7.