I have come to the decision to get better at things I really used to enjoy. Or things I know I can get better at and not get overly frustrated about because I know they’re just hobbies.
Hobbies are fun. I sort of have a lot of them because I just like having a million things to do.
Art was a hobby that I sort of neglected for a while. I didn’t really want to do it because it’s an easy thing to get critical over. Nail painting? There’s a cetain limit to how critical you can be over it – did you paint your nails in the lines? Did you flood the cuticle? Does it look cool? That’s really sort of it, for somebody like me who doesn’t see it as a career. I’m not trying to make beauty products my life forever, in a professional way. It’s a hobby for me and I’ll keep doing it as long as I like it, and I think it’ll be for a good long while because I haven’t committed it to an eternal or livelihood place.
Anyways, art was something I loved doing but at the same time really dreaded for a while. I know it’s because my dad was like a big wig art person and for him and my mom, saying “good job” did more harm than good, in their eyes. They know art and skill so if anything, saying “good job” when something wasn’t a good job was just a harmful lie. Since it was everything my dad ever did, I simply couldn’t just enjoy art, I had to hone a skill that, yes, came fairly easily to me, but at the same time didn’t know how to actually improve upon because I was so against being criticized for something I simply wanted to be a hobby.
One summer my parents I guess decided that my dad would just… teach me art at home. I think I was like 11? I was also swimming everyday, and taking piano and going to Japanese school and a whole bunch of other stuff. I was 11 and I just wanted to do nothing all summer. Swim and do nothing. Like normal 11 year olds. But I had to take pseudo art classes at home. I think my dad assumed, or believed, that I had enough skill for him to teach me like he did his college students, because that’s what ended up happening. And it sort of sucked. I just didn’t understand how to do what he was doing because I hadn’t ever taken formal art classes before. Art class in elemetary school doesn’t count. So concepts like shading instead of drawing lines, and drawing what you see instead of what you know. Drawing an eye means shading in where there’s a shadow, not lining out the shape of the eyelid. Unless there’s an actual line there. If that makes sense. Anyways, I was 11 and wanted no part of it because I was basically told “no you’re wrong” for 3 months and it sucked, and I didn’t know how to say “help me” or “I don’t understand” because Japanese kids don’t do that. I cried a lot. I still cry a lot. I somehow ended up hyper sensitive compared to the rest of my family. Everything makes me cry (in their opinion). Which is almost funny because compared to other people I like never cry. But I do cry a lot. I cried the first time I heard Katy Perry’s Roar. It was an emotional day.
The next summer, my parents put me in actual art classes. At the Academy of Art. I was 12. In an intermdiate college figure painting course. I was able to take it as a favor to my dad. The school gave me a special pass and everything. I met with the front desk lady (her name was Laura, it was special because my middle name is Laura) and the security guard. My teacher was a former student of my dad’s. It was an oil painting class but I came with a whole big bucket of acrylics because that’s all I knew and my dad just gave me a bunch of his stuff. And I think he said it’d just be easier for me to use acrlyics? Something about oils being harder and that I was 12. Which is funny because I couldn’t use oils but I was somehow expected to fit in at College, because I was 12.
I think I was sort of just told I was going to take these classes. Again, I wanted to just do normal 12 year old stuff. I was done with Japanese school at that point (high five, 12 year old Yukie!) and didn’t have piano anymore either. So I guess my parents were like “you have too much free time” and put me in college art classes. No swim team campout for me, even though I was promised I could that year. No extra fun time because I had art homework.
And I really did love drawing and painting at that age. And it was definitely a cool skill to learn, but it just felt like too much at the time.
The first day my dad stayed with me in the morning and then went and ran errands during the second half of the day. For lunch he bought me a bag of salt and vinegar chips and a Cherry Coke and we just talked for 30 mins. I sat in the back of the class because I was a guest and uncomfortable but my dad said to sit in the front because it was the better spot to sit in. He picked me up and I packed everything up in my bucket and then said “on Thursday you’ll be doing this by yourself.” And on Thursday, I really was just on my own.
The teacher, Pam Powell, was the nicest and most patient teacher ever. She figured out how to teach a 12 year old in a medium that wasn’t her usual medium and became my friend by the end of the class. I think it was like an 8 week course? We had homework and there were daily critique sessions. It was an intermediate figure painting class so we painted stuff at home, objects or images from magazines, and then in class it was painting nudes. I had help from my dad at home but painting at school was a whole other thing. It was 8 hours of small lessons in the morning and then just painting. But I learned how to be the unsatisfied artist – paintings are never really done.
Honestly the painting was the best part of the class because otherwise, I didn’t know how to make friends with college students and had no money to leave and buy food other than my vending machine snacks. I lied to my parents when they asked if I made friends. I said “yes. Lily is my friend.” In reality, Lily was friends with her college friends and not the random 12 year old that joined in. That’s for sure not the first time I lied about having friends to my parents – I lied about having friends at Japanese School.
But the painting was really nice. Pam helped. She made it nice. Her collection of Enya and Pure Mood CDs she played was eclectic and weird but soothing nonetheless. Everybody else listened to their own music so really, it was sort of just me and Pam and Enya. She’d check in on everybody periodically and always helped me along and see things I wasn’t trained to see. She was very nice. And as a 12 year old who knew very little at the beginning of 8 weeks, my learning curve was off the charts. I take quite a bit of pride in that now, as a college student, because I know if I was seeing a random 12 year old suddently write literature reviews, I’d be impressed. I like to think the random people in that class, well the 6 I remember (Lily and her friends, a guy who looked like a more Greek Joey Fatone, and a guy who looked a little like some random older contestant on Survivor) it was rather impressive that my skills improved that fast. I even noticed a difference, a clear difference, between week 1 and week 5. The person I painted and the clothes he was wearing actually looked like a person wearing clothes. I think around the end of the course I even got a “wow that’s actually quite good” from my mom and that was the closest I had ever really gotten to a compliment from her, with regards to art.
My summer was spent swimming in the morning, driving to the city, painting, eating salt and vinegar chips and drinking Cherry Coke, reading Patricia Cornwell forensic novels at lunch, and painting again in the afternoon. That’s a strange sentence to read. I had a strange adolesence.
Our very last assignment was to paint a self portrait. Honestly it’s not even my favorite thing I did in that course. But people were nice in the critique. Survivor guy and Greek Joey Fatone were actually super nice. They have no idea what they contributed to a random 12 year old’s self-esteem. My parents had it framed (well they framed it themselves, #artistlife). I think they actually, genuinely liked it. I still, honestly don’t, and don’t think it’s the best thing I did during that course. It also looks really silly because it sits next to portraits my dad did of me – the contrast between the two is strange to see.
That was actually one of the very last actual pieces of art that I’ve done. I haven’t done a full on painting in a long time. I’ve started a few, and never finished them. I sketch a lot though, so those I finish. Sketching and marker pieces are easier to finish. But not a lot of painting happened. Mostly because I felt like the line between art as a hobby and art as a serious thing I could do in the future sat between the choice to sketch and doodle over the choice to finish actual pieces of art.
Recently, as in this last week, I was browsing Instagram and realized I’ve been seeing a lot of little watercolor things that I totally have the skill set for. Then I ended up on Etsy and was like “wait a second – THIS COULD BE ME.” Now, I’m not saying I’m going to start this whole art Enterprise business. But really, I have enough knowledge on color and shapes and nave the skills to paint things, and the learning curve for watercolors is fairly quick, so I can totally make small things from time to time and make it into a profitable hobby. Not something I’m going to live off of, but something that has some sort of reward system. There’s absolutely no guarantee I’ll sell anything but it doesn’t hurt to try.
So that’s the goal. I bought all the stuff. I have a bunch of things I know I want to actually paint and sketch. And now I have a goal. After all that art business as a kid, I’ve finally started to appreciate it, and see what it was worth. I always did appreciate it to a point – I knew the worth of having all those resources and lessons, essentially for free. But I didn’t actually use them practically until now.
I may take another art class at the local community college. We’ll see. It actually wouldn’t hurt to take a watercolor class. It might actually be fun. I really like having hobbies though; I’ll probably put up another gardening post because it’s so different from last year, and I have a million books to show you all. Fun-busy is fun and soul soothing 🙂 It’s all good though because at least I’m preparing for a post-college life. Post-college until I take more classes in Fall towards Early Childhood Education lol. Anyways, it’s hobby season 😀