Why do I write? Why not become a painter, or an illustrator? I often talk about my music on my podcast. If you are doing a podcast there is a chance music is a big part of your life. What I often don’t delve into are all the other artistic endeavors I have pursued over the years. Let’s take a trip into the mind of a perpetually troubled individual.
Kindergarten is where it starts for most of us. The teacher tries to get us to learn to sing songs in harmony, write our names, cut the paper in a straight line, glue construction paper together without eating the tasty paste. All this while trying to foster our budding imaginations, feeding our curiosity to inspire our creativity. These are all over stating the role an individual often labeled a glorified baby-sitter.
Unfortunately for me my creative side wasn’t on the same level as the kindergarten teacher. I had trouble cutting the paper in a straight line. This meant my snowflakes looked more like globs of goop. Coloring inside the lines was also a no-go. I wasn’t good at tracing either. By the time my kindergarten schooling ended I had become frustrated I wasn’t ever going to find my creative side. Oh and yes I was thinking about this then, I wanted to desperately to be an artist. I hated myself for not being able to draw or paint as well as some of the other kids.
Fortunately I discovered I was advanced in one area, reading. I was already reading books at a 2nd grade level in kindergarten. This was most frustrating when I would go to the library. The librarian would smugly tell me no sir get one off this shelf and point to the paper thin See Spot Run clones. I was constantly trying to prove I was a better reader than that. I threw a fit and forced her to let me take the Book It test on a book had read recently, one easily at the 2nd grade level she claimed I couldn’t possibly read. Of course she accused me of cheating. I must have had my sister or parent read it too me she insisted. Never mind I was able to read the questions and the answers without her help. I would grab a random book and start reading it to her. Finally she agreed to let me check out the books I wanted. I wish it ended there but, as we moved a lot, I went through this same ritual with every new school. It was like there was a conspiracy to prevent me from advancing.
At home that artistic side was still begging to get out. I used to doodle on my papers. Since I was so uncoordinated my doodles were only recognizable to me. Teachers used to question my drawings, always trying to guess what they were. One time I drew a picture of a staircase going up the side of a mountain with a door at the top overseeing a cliff. I drew a stout little man with chubby legs holding a lantern. My teacher thought it was a dragon. She asked me why the dragon had a giant frog riding on it’s back. I scolded her, no idiot, it’s Mario going up the hill to Subcon. She didn’t know what a Mario or a Subcon was. Even with my Koopas and Goombas chasing Mario up the stairs, she still had no clue it was from a video game.
Second grade things changed. By this time I had already seen three different films in the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. This was around the time my doodles shifted from mostly innocent Super Mario Bros. characters to endless drawings of Freddy Krueger. Once again my teachers were oblivious to what my drawings were. I blame this on my lack of artistic talent. When I looked at the stick figure wearing the stripped shirt and long finger nails I knew it was the dream demon from my favorite film franchise. The really issue was the fedora. Mine always ended up looking like top hats so the teachers thought I was obsessed with leprechauns. I mean sure I did have a thing for those critters too but come on the dream stalker isn’t an Irish fairy.
I wasn’t any good at clay or Play Dough. I was in the fourth grade when we were making ceramic bowls, cups or coffee mugs. I was trying to make an ash tray, for my parents who hadn’t quite smoking yet. The teacher scolded me so I scrunched the sides in. I still have this deformity to this day. It is a reminder that I am not going to be a talented sculptor.
Sometime around the 6th grade I had gotten really into comic books. Naturally this meant I wanted to create my own comic books. Once again my lack of drawing skills put me at a disadvantage. Then I lucked out. I started reading these comic book magazines, there were two different ones but the only one I remember the name was Wizard. They both had something special inside. Tips on how to draw superheroes with step-by-step instructions from real professionals in the industry. Pretty soon I was able to turn an hour glass into a sexy lady in a swimming suit with the greatest of ease. I learned to use circles and human heads to determine proportions and skeletons. Pretty soon I was drawing my own comic books with decent action. There were just two problems. The first wasn’t a major deal. I learned to draw the bodies but I wasn’t getting very good at drawing clothes. I mean, I was learning this around the age of 12 so I was okay drawing my female characters anatomically correct, but if I didn’t want to be labeled a pervert by my teachers, not to mention facing detention, I had to put clothes on my characters. I could do basic pants, shirts and dresses but nothing fancy.
As big of a deal as the clothing issue was there was one more hitch. No matter how hard I tried I could not peg forced perspective. My scenes had giant characters walking around tiny houses with disproportionate animals and cars floating around all over the place. It was a mess. To this day I can’t grasp anything beyond the very basics of the vanishing line and horizon. I improved once I got into art class in high school but never enough to be any kind of satisfied with my work.
Once I got to college I had given up on being an artist. My first semester I took an art appreciation class. The first thing I learned was as much as I thought I wanted to be an artist, it was beyond my grasp. I did answer the question of what I believe art to be. It was also in college I fleshed out my true creative talent. I might not be a visual artist, but I discovered I could paint vivid pictures to stir the imaginations of others using the written word. I learned I am not an artist. I am a writer.