People who can draw and paint and mold big globs of clay into ornate pottery worthy of the Ming or any other dynasty...well, I just don't know how they do it. But I've always wanted to.
I got the opportunity to reminisce a while back when I was looking through a selection of books to order from one of those book clubs that promises you everything short of a jet airplane for a buck if you'll only give their club a chance.
They upped their ante by a book this time—six for six bucks—and that pushed me over the edge. I'm a sucker for nearly free books. But I digress.
One of the choices that got an immediate "Book To Order" check mark was a titled called, "Drawing for Dummies."
That sent me rolling back to my childhood summers when a neighbor and I would utter two simple words when all other recreational possibilities had been exhausted. "Wanna draw?"
After swimming at the local pool, or playing pickle or tag or guns, out would come stacks of paper and handfuls of pencils, and we'd draw other worlds from outer space or helmets from our favorite football teams or designs for elaborate traps to capture the vicious neighborhood wiener dog.
Our creative energy knew no bounds, even if we weren't Picasso or Van Gogh.
And don't we all remember Bob Ross from public television? The painter with the afro so big he could hide his palette in there.
He was famous for his paintings of happy clouds and happy trees and happy nature scenes of all kinds, and for his soothing voice that made you think he could bring about world peace if only all the leaders of nations would come together for one of his seminars.
The guy was happy. And boy, could he paint.
He'd always start with a blank canvas and a brush that looked better suited to touching up your house trim than creating artistic masterpieces.
Several stiff stabs with a three-inch brush and he'd immediately have a horizon laid out. A few more and mountains magically appeared.
Then he'd take something that can best be described as an angled stick (probably not the technical artist's term) and with a vertical scrape or two he'd have majestic trunks of pine trees looming in the foreground.
He'd build his paintings like this, element by element, with what seemed like standard household utensils.
I was in awe. Was art really that easy?
Not so much.
While he was creating such saleable pieces as "Morning Dew on Forest Floor" or "Sunlight on Yonder Hills," my efforts with a staining brush and crooked stick would have been more appropriately named, "Mess on Canvas I" and "Mess on Canvas II." (It's a series! Collect all forty-eight!)
I could never change the channel when he was on. I had to see how he'd effortlessly bring a mountain brook babbling through his paintings or create a hollowed out tree trunk where a happy little chipmunk could live.
I've got tremendous respect for the talents of the editorial cartoonists who can caricaturize popular figures that we can actually recognize when they put their pens down, or those who fill the panels of comic strips with enough interest that make readers turn to them on a daily basis.
Perhaps I'm able to occasionally string together a word or two that makes a good story (occasionally), but put a pencil in my hand, and I don't seek out a sketch pad, I reach for the nearest crossword puzzle.
I've got big plans, though. With my newest art manual and the memory of Bob Ross alive and well in my head, I'm going to learn to draw. Dummy that I am.
Maybe my stick figures will take some shape now.
"They couldn’t find the artist,
so they hung the picture."
—Gerald F. Lieberman