It’s not that I’m particularly bad at art.
It’s just been a while since I’ve attempted anything vaguely art-like. A really, really long while. Like a thirty-some-years while.
In fact, I’m pretty sure this was one of my last artistic creation:Plus, I have a tendency to assume I’m going to be really, really bad at anything that I try for the first time.
This may sound pessimistic.
But I prefer to think of this outlook as practical. You know, not exactly glass-half-empty. More I-think-this-glass-might-be-broken-because-it-keeps-dripping-all-over-me.
After all, I have pretty much sucked at every new thing I’ve tried.
Like that time I took kick-boxing classes while in Brazil. And the teacher had to make me go to the back of the class so I wouldn’t accidentally punch anyone. After I accidentally punched someone.
Or that time I signed up for belly dancing classes in Japan, and I thought I’d be really good at it, or at least a lot better than my Japanese classmates because I definitely had more of a belly than they did. But every time I tried to dance the way the instructor showed us, I just looked like I was being electrocuted. And not in a cool, sexy, belly dancing way.
And well, every time I’ve attempted to learn a new language EVER.
So, yeah, sucking at new things is just kind of my thing.And then on the first day of class I discovered something that was more than a little bit shocking to me.
You guys, I’m kind of good at it.
Or at least I was better than the one other person in my class. And, really, that’s all I need to feel like a total winner.
I chalked up my first class’ success to beginner’s luck and our subject matter: bamboo.
Thanks to all the years I spent living in Asia, I’d probably seen a bit more bamboo in person than my poor classmate.
Plus, the instructor kept on telling us to draw the leaves like chicken feet. And, well, I’ve probably seen a few more chicken feet than my classmate thanks to my year and a half of Chinese grocery shopping.The second class was an even bigger shocker.
Look, you guys, peonies! That actually kind of look like peonies! Even though I’m not entirely sure what peonies look like!
Even the instructor, a low-key grad student from China, seemed impressed. “Have you done this before?” he asked.
Do I look like a woman who paints peonies for a good time?
I quickly snapped a photo of my painting on my phone and Instagrammed it. When I showed him the new version of my painting, all soft-focus-filtered and blurry-edged, he was even more impressed.
He had never heard of Instagram before, so I flipped through the different filters to show him how it worked. And then I showed him some before and after Instragrammed photos on my phone. Maybe I don’t paint peonies for a good time, but I do Instagram-filter-select for funsies.Given my two weeks of Chinese painting success, I was feeling pretty confident when I sauntered into class this week.
And then I discovered two very unsettling things.
First, there was a new student in our class. It’s not too hard being the top student when your class consists of a measly two students. But now with three students, my odds of being the best weren’t looking so good any more.
Besides, this new student? She totally looked like the type who painted peonies in her free time.
The second thing: our subject matter was grapes.
Fruit and I? We’re not always the best of friends.
Let’s just say fruit has a better tendency to rot in my fridge than inspire me to great art.
And, sadly, the grapes in my painting did end up looking like they had weathered a few too many bad days in the bottom of my crisper.
The grapes weren’t the only problem. The grape leaves didn’t look chicken feety enough. Or maybe they looked too chicken feety. The vines were too twirly and spirally when they were supposed to be jaunty and asymmetrical.
Everything just seemed a bit off.
Meanwhile, my fellow classmates were batting this whole grape assignment out of the park.As I looked disappointedly at my own creation, the instructor came up beside me.
“I know what you should do,” he said.
I waited for him to suggest some magic Chinese painting trick that would save my painting – a brush stroke or mixture of paint and ink that would transform my grapes from droopy to delicious, the leaves from wilted to wonderful, the vines from lackluster to luminous.
“What was that thing you showed me last week? On your phone? That will make it much better. Just don’t show anyone this,” he pointed at my painting.
This was his ancient Chinese painting secret?
But you know what?
It kind of worked.Have you ever tried something for the very first time and been kind of good at it? What was it? And did you stay good at it or did it take approximately three weeks for failure to set in? I’m, umm, asking for a friend.