TALK DOESN'T COOK RICE: Lessons help untap latent artistic skills

In a previous column, I encouraged readers to visit Penn State’s Palmer Museum of Art as a way of considering art as a potential new interest.

This week, I’m suggesting another option for those who don’t care about going to a museum and looking at someone else’s art: Make your own.

Now, wait; don’t dismiss the idea just because you assume you don’t have any artistic ability — or just because someone in your past, maybe a teacher or a parent, told you that you don’t have any artistic ability.

We all start out in school painting with cheap watercolors, making unrecognizable clay pots, and drawing self-portraits, and most of us love that creative time. Every brush stroke is a success, and every collage is a masterpiece. As we get older, however, we don’t get the feedback we need: the teacher doesn’t hold our pot holders up as the gold standard of weaving and thinks our ink dot portrait looks like a Rorschach test gone awry.

Some of us might have taken an art class or two in college, looking at the time spent as just an escape from required classes but not as something at which we’re particularly skilled. (And our professors might have also agreed with us.) I took a four-week community course in art a few years after graduating from college. I remember the instructor walking around the room, going from student to student, giving helpful advice on how to make small improvements on each student’s work — until he came to mine. He took one look at my rendering and laughed, “Oh, I guess you need a remedial class.”

Well, as it turns out, the instructor didn’t know what he was talking about — and I have the drawings and paintings to prove it. A couple of years ago, I decided to, once again, give art a try. I took another class at a different venue, and this time, it was a success.

Sometimes, it’s timing; sometimes, it’s venue; and sometimes, it just doesn’t matter. It’s not about creating something for someone else’s approval; it’s about satisfying the need for creativity. My work doesn’t always turn out to my liking, and clearly, I need more instruction. Sometimes, I can’t wait to show my work to the next unsuspecting visitor who walks through my front door, but sometimes, my trash can is half-filled with failed attempts to put on paper what I see in my mind. Even so, the result doesn’t at all diminish the journey.

So, I hope that I’ve given some of the artist wannabes out there something to think about. The Art Alliance, in Lemont; Artistic Horizon, in State College; and Green Drake Gallery, in Millheim, are just a few of the places that offer art classes. Also, check local craft stores, art supply stores, art galleries, and even the State College Area School District Community Education program. You’ll be able to find classes and workshops that run from one day to a few months, so depending on your comfort level, it can be a minimal commitment of time and money.

And if by some chance you find yourself in class sitting next to me, please don’t make fun of my ink dot drawings. I’m a little sensitive about it.

Sherry Coven can be reached at cdtweekender@centredaily.com.