Good Enough

The world is so full of a number of things, I think we should all be as happy as kings.   ~Robert Louis Stevenson

There is so much to know, so much to do and see, and so little time to learn it all.

I have always loved making art of all kinds, but I had a little bit of a complex for way too many years that I wasn’t “good enough” to be an artist.  I remember just exactly why: When I was in eighth grade and signing up for my freshman high school courses, I wanted to take art.  But my mother must have been dubious about my talents, because she told me to ask my art teacher if I was good enough for high school art before I committed.  I did, and she looked at me funny before nodding, and I never forgot how suddenly inept and unworthy I felt.

I took art, I think, all four years of high school.  My high school art teacher, Mr. Scarpetta, was actually kind of great.  Nobody was ever boxed in to a project, or even materials.  He had a well-stocked classroom, open-ended ideas for us to pursue, and plenty of time.  I was working on a clay sculpture of a seated man one time, and I was having trouble with the feet.  What do you think Mr. Scarpetta did?  He put a chair up on the table, told Jay Gleason to take off his socks and shoes, sat him in the chair, and said, “There.  Now make your foot.”  I won an award at an art show for that piece.

Isn’t it funny, though, how those doubts, seeded so early, keep you from feeling like you deserve success?  I don’t even know what “success” at art looks like.  There are so many different artists producing so many different styles of work in so many different materials, who can say what success is?  I guess if you like it, it’s good enough.  If other people like it, too?  Bonus.  Go ahead and call yourself an artist anyway.

In my kitchen right now, there is a stack of canvases, a box of cheap paints, a jar of decent brushes, and a couple of instructional books.  We’re going to learn how to paint with acrylics.  Why?  Because I want to, because I haven’t really learned how to do anything new in too long, and because it’s fun to work at these things alongside the children.  We have a nice little society going on here in which we cheerfully praise and critique each other’s work, and proudly display it on the wall regardless.  We learn by talking about what we did well and what seems a little off.  (That’s how we learned about shadows.  If you don’t add shadows, your person/thing is just kind of floating above the ground. But it took us a couple of days of looking and wondering to figure that one out!)  All of us have increased our skills greatly by this method of making and discussing.  The children are actually impressively good!

Also, I can do most of the painting, except the finest details, while holding Henry.  Don’t think that isn’t an important consideration!

If I had to give younger me one piece of advice, it would be to stop worrying about what other people think of you.  They don’t matter.  These people, they come in and out of your life, leaving their marks, and sometimes those marks are permanent scars.  Most of the time, people don’t want you to succeed.  They don’t want to perceive you as better than they are, so their judgements, those are about them, not you.  Don’t listen to them.  Find the rare people who will build you up, who speak honesty with love, and just ignore the ones who would rather tear you down.

You’re a beautiful person doing amazing things.  Embrace that.

A bad iPod photograph of our workspace at the end of an hour. Six people painted similar images, but they’re all different, too.

If you are interested, the book I picked is called Learn To Paint In Acrylics With 50 Small Paintings.  This is painting #2, but you don’t have to do them in order.  Each painting teaches something, but they don’t necessarily build on each other, so you can skip around.  5×5 canvases are recommended, but 10×10 was all I could find locally, so that’s what we’re using! Everything else is cheap, student-grade supplies from Michaels.  🙂

4 Comment

  1. Randall says:

    Wonderfully said, Jennie.

  2. Did you do the painting that’s your header now? I love, love, how you’ve interpreted your homeplace in that piece. And the light that always shines through watercolors. I was just staring at it and enjoying for the longest time and this post seems like the place to mention it.

    1. I’m feeling a little sheepish as I admit that I used a crop from a photograph and the Waterlogue app. But making a header for this blog is on my list of Things To Do, if that makes up for it? 🙂

    2. That’s very funny :). I still like it by the way. I think it still counts as art even when our computers help us – you know how some of those old masters had their apprentices paint in the boring parts ….

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