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I was wrong about art

I did a lot of drawing when I was a kid, and into my teens. I wasn’t bad at it!

Then I stopped and left it all behind, with a bitter taste in my mouth.

The downfall of my childhood art journey began one Christmas when I was a teenager, my father bought my younger sister a bunch of art supplies and he got me tracing paper. He constantly complimented her original art, and dismissed mine that was based on existing characters (mostly from Disney movies). I was actually good at drawing, but feeling like it meant nothing to him was incredibly painful.

As a parent myself now, I have more sympathy for his actions, he never meant to tear me down. He wanted to support my middle child sister, and I was doing fine. I was always fine! Unfortunately I was a little more fragile in this area and quickly left art behind for STEM pursuits where I could quantitatively measure my success, instead of relying upon the squishy world that was art.

Throughout my 20s, I was downright negative on art. I love museums and vaguely appreciated fine art, but I was pretty dismissive about art programs. Why should funding go to art when there were Real Problems and Real Jobs that needed to be done? We don’t die without art! And don’t get me started on how ridiculous I thought abstract art was. Finally, I thought amateur art was a total waste of time because it was not “good” art. I bristled when people would post their painting-with-wine paintings and everyone would gush about how great they are (they aren’t!).

I was wrong about everything. I finally came around to this in my 30s.

First of all, I had a poor experience and it colored my perspective. I was bitter and unreasonable.

Art funding? Without art funding, art would be the playground of the wealthy and privileged. What kind of miserable world would that be? A pretty miserable one! Practically speaking, it also means that art we take for granted in our everyday life wouldn’t exist. We’re surrounded with things that are designed, and someone has to do all of that.

Abstract art? I still have a kneejerk reaction of thinking a giant canvas covered with yellow and a single red dot hanging in a gallery is kind of silly. My toddler can make that “art”! But that’s the wrong perspective. It’s all about aesthetics and how it makes you feel. Does a yellow canvas and a single red dot make you feel something? Would it look nice in your living room because your couch is red? The amount of effort that goes into a piece does not create value. Something can look nice and be simple and abstract. Admittedly, I still struggle with actually liking most abstract art, but I do appreciate and understand it more now.

As for amateur art, that’s what prompted this blog post. A few years back I started buying art supplies again, and picked up Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. You see, if I was going to take up drawing again, I wanted to make sure my art was good. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make much time for it, so it fell into my pile of untouched hobbies.

Then I had kids. Little Adam is 2, and now old enough to drag a marker across a piece of paper and have fun with finger painting, even if he’s not quite at the stage of making recognizable designs. I discovered that doing this together is FUN!


And every time I look at the chalk drawings outside or see one of the pictures we made taped to a door, I have great memories of spending time with my son. That’s what those painting-with-wine paintings are about! It’s fun! You have memories!


You don’t hang it in your living room and share it on social media because you’re suddenly some talented artist, it’s because you’re happy, and that’s worth sharing and celebrating.


So this is where I am. Adam and I now “create art” most weekends. We hang it around the house and share it on social media. I’m still uncomfortable about it not being “good” but by sharing it I’m trying to let that go, and hiding behind calling it “toddler art” (he does provide a lot of artistic direction!).

But I also remembered something, it wasn’t just drawing I did as a kid, I made tons of collages. As a big Disney fan, I’d clip an article or picture I really liked from a magazine, and I’d build a whole collage around it using stickers and other small pictures. I did this for The Lion King, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and more. I created them on poster board and hung them in my bedroom. They’re all lost now, but I did capture part of the Pocahontas one in one of my pictures of my teenage bedroom.

So hey, I have a head start on experience with collage art! And that’s what I naturally picked up with as I’ve started making new art with Adam! Maybe it’ll even get good at some point as we refine our skills together!

Or maybe we’ll just have fun, make memories, and be happy. That would be OK too.