Wednesday, June 7, 2017

So I signed up for this art class...

On a little bit of whim, while exploring summer activity options for Brea, I signed myself up for a summer art class, Visual Journal: drawing and collage, through the Des Moines Art Center. We love going to the Art Center, and when I listed some options for Brea for a "camp" activity this summer, an art class was at the top of her list. She is scheduled to go to a morning class in a couple of weeks, but my once a week evening class started last night. The supply list we were sent was both specific and vague as to what exactly we would need to take to class with us, and I was super nervous yesterday as I packed my bag in preparation. So naturally I grabbed a lot of stuff from my crafty space and hoped it would do for night one. It did. I'll be adding to it for nights two through six.

Class runs from 6:30-9:00 on Tuesday evenings for 6 weeks, and our class is just 1 of many going on at that same time, so as I pulled up and walked into the education wing I was far from alone. As I found my way into the studio were our class was being held, got settled at a table, and looked around the room, my inner anxiety monster was getting all worked up. There were the names of professional artists on the notes board and a few people were chatting with the instructor, obviously familiar with him from previous classes. As 6:30 arrived and our instructor introduced himself, told us about his art experience (college/university art faculty, artists in residence, etc, etc), and started explaining the purpose of the class, my fear that I was in over my head slowly grew to the point I was wondering if I could get a partial refund if I dropped out of the class. I was convinced that I was surrounded by actual artists and that when we started our projects, mine would look like kids play comparatively.

Then, this really great thing happened. After a bit, the instructor asked us, since we are a relatively small group (12) and will be working on journals which can be rather personal and revealing in nature, to introduce ourselves, say a color we associate ourselves with, share what we do outside of class, and why we decided to take this class. I was the second person to introduce myself and I decided I had nothing to lose by sharing that I was feeling scared to death that I was artistically out of my league and that professionally I did nothing related to art (the lady before me had worked as a graphic artists in advertising) and that I signed up for class because I like to learn new things, I'm a maker at heart, and I feel that professionally if I'm asking kids to explore things outside of their comfort zones then it's only fair that I challenge myself to do that as well. And I may have dissed on the state of the public educational system a bit (I'm looking at you focus on core subjects) and said that I wanted to challenge myself creatively so I can offer that in my library programming to help kids experience the fun of learning outside the very defined, square box that I feel our educational system wants to make the process of learning. Oh yeah, and I wanted to try some new artsy things.

(Side note: I was one of those kids that did just fine inside the box of traditional learning, as do my girls. That doesn't mean that it works for every kid. I see it every day in my job, kids who don't excel within the "normal" educational setting NOT because they aren't able, but because our educational system is not allowing them to be engaged in learning in a way that allows them to excel. I am always inspired by the kids that give me the most grief throughout the year when I see them in an activity that engages them in a way that is meaningful to them. It's often a night and day difference, and a good reminder about the importance of providing a number of ways to learn in our programming that allows all types of learners to excel and feel successful.)

As others continued to introduce themselves last night, I started to feel my fear lift. There were 2 other public educators in the room, and 2 former educators. Plus a veterinarian and several ladies who had retired from very professional, very NOT art related, jobs. And a recent high school graduate headed to college to study architecture. And at least 1 other person admitted to being majorly out of her comfort zone and as nervous as I. 

I was not surrounded by professional artists, but by people who, just like me, enjoyed creating, learning, and be challenged creatively. I was so relieved! And it made our next activity, actually drawing some stuff, much more enjoyable than if I still would have been self conscious about my presence in the class.

Our instructor is certified in art therapy (and teaches yoga) and has warned us that many of our activities will feel a bit like art therapy, but that the activities work well for a journaling class because of their personal, self exploration nature. Our activity last night was very art therapy related and was intended to help us start to get an idea of what type of theme our visual journal may take over the next 6 weeks. Our task was to quickly doodle/draw/sketch/color in response to a number of short prompts. It was an interesting activity, and most of the prompts were pretty easy for me to quickly doodle something. But 2 of the prompts completely stumped me to the point I never did doodle anything to represent them.

The first prompt to stump me had to do with what is something I would change about myself. Turn back time a bit and I'm sure I could have come up with many things, but after so many years of working on being kind to myself and accepting me for the unique individual that I am, I really couldn't bring anything to mind of something I would REALLY change about myself at the present moment. I will take that as win for how far I have come in learning to honor myself, warts and all.

The second prompt that tripped me up had to do with representing something I do well. Even now, after almost a full day processing this activity in my mind, I have a hard time choosing that something. I mean, there are things I think I'm okay, maybe even good, at but no matter what I bring to mind, I always immediately think of someone who can do it better than me. Or a reason I should not be considered someone who is good at that particular thing. Is it a product of my perfectionist tendencies? A product of having many interests, but no one thing that receives my focus? A representation of my inner self doubt? I'm not sure.

By night's end, we had started to see a little bit of what everyone's individual artistic style looks like. We had started to narrow down our individual journal themes and what form each of our journal will take. We had been able to share a bit with each other and start to make connections that will draw us together as a little community of support over the next 6 weeks. It was a good start to my summer art adventure.

In case your interested:
  • My journal theme is joy/happiness. It only seems right considering I'm reading not one, but 2 books about the subject at the moment and it has often been a subject on my mind over the past several years.
  • My journal is going to be an up-cycled children's book, because really, could I choose anything else?
  • The color I said I associate myself with is purple. I have reasons why, but I'd love to hear why YOU thought I chose that color. You can leave a comment below if you'd like. I'll share more in my next journal related post as to my reasons for choosing purple. (I'd also be interested to hear what color you associate yourself with, and why, if you care to share!)
I'm already looking forward next week's class, until then, I have a few dates to honor with an old book, a razor blade, and a jar of gesso.


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