Art Class 101

I thought Mr. Richardson my high school art teacher was really cool. He had longish, wavy brown hair, a kind, deep voice and just the right amount of push to get students making art, even when art showed up in unexpected and unacceptable (to students) form. In the abstract painting part of our Creative Drawing and Painting class he told us – between lessons in colour and other practical stuff – to “let the paintbrush take you on a journey and paint whatever comes to mind. It doesn’t have to make sense.” This, probably wise, instruction on abstract painting didn’t help me much. All I could paint was blue-green water with greeny-blue seaweed and large black and white dice growing from it. My grey-purple landscape was easier on the eyes and the soft glow of mountains with – what else? – a setting sun, helped me get a B in art that year. A lesson or two in present time from my artist husband has not helped me in this regard. Guess I’ll stick to writing about it. 

Pottery with Mr. Richardson, twice in later years, was my first mindful experience of tapping into creativity and letting it all be how it wanted to be. These days, this is actually part of my meditation process; letting it all be there just as it is. In art class, the pliable, cool clay shape-shifted as I kneaded and rolled – a great medium for a 15-year-old to sink her hands and mind into.  I made coil pots, a tall slab vase and another slab keepsake for grad two years later. I still have all of these creations and when the décor timing is right – about every five or six years – I put them out. Maybe Divine Design or Colour Confidential would use them? Working on the potter’s wheel was much more grim. The clay was either too dry or too wet, I’d press too hard or too light, and the wheel was going too fast or too slow. We had to try the manual wheel before using the electric one and anyway, all my pots were flops. 

In this particular pottery block, Mr. Richardson was instructing us on sculpture and my sculpted head looked like a caveman’s. My friend Colleen had a perfectly-shaped sailor’s head with small features and fine lips and nose. He even had a sailor-looking cap on his head. No one else had Cro-Magnon like mine and twice I trampled it to start over. When I complained that I couldn’t get it right, Mr. Richardson in his creative wisdom said: “Just keep going and see how it wants to turn out.” So I did. I turned out a Cro-Magnon with an oval hollowed-out mouth, strong straight nose with flared nostrils, and slanted hollow eyes that must have seen the greatest sorrows on earth. I polished it with sandpaper, then shoe polish and called it done. I got an A on that head and Mr. Magnon was put on exhibit in the glass display at school, along with Colleen’s sailor and other students’ tamer sculptures. Now, if I want to scare someone I pull out Mr. Magnon. At least he’s probably glad I let him be as he was in art class 1978.

Christine finds expression through writing and dance, and inspiration through long walks, solitude and time with other writers. “Writing is a window into my life, recording, witnessing and continually emerging.”