Last week I got a gift. My husband got me an “art set”. Colors for painting fabric, ceramic, glass and what not. A set of crayons, a set of cartoon pens, a drawing pad, some lovely drawing pencils wrapped in shiny gift wrap. And was I excited. Now all those who know me please do not get shocked. For the un-initiated “fine arts” has never been my forte (putting it mildly). Colors rarely remained within their boundaries when I deigned to color a picture, no one could give a suitable name to the forms I drew and drawing straight lines even when there was a ruler around became a challenge. I was never the gifted child who copied the flower in all its glory from the blackboard during art class, I was never graded an A+ by the insipid art teacher who actively deducted marks for not copying the flower perfectly.
Now all those who know me please do not get shocked. For the un-initiated “fine arts” has never been my forte (putting it mildly). Colors rarely remained within their boundaries when I deigned to color a picture, no one could give a suitable name to the forms I drew and drawing straight lines even when there was a ruler around became a challenge. I was never the gifted child who copied the flower in all its glory from the blackboard during art class, I was never graded an A+ by the insipid art teacher who actively deducted marks for not copying the flower perfectly.
I once remember making a chart to be used as a class aid while the teacher taught us about the conquests of Akbar the Great. I really slogged and put in all the artistic energy I had to ensure that nothing was amiss in the drawing and the chart was a befitting tribute to Akbar the Great. “Today shall be my redemption”, is what I thought as I trudged happily to school, smiling as smugly as the mustached Akbar was on my chart. Well I CAME into the class, the teacher SAW the picture and laughter conquered all. After a few minutes of raucous laughter the teacher quieted the class and declared it was best that we proceed with the class without the “teaching aid”. To put it mildly my tryst with the fine arts ended there for the next few years at least.
As an engineering student I struggled considerably with Engineering Drawing and Machine Drawing. It was horrifying to say the least. With a contraption called the “drafter” I struggled to draw straight lines, angles, top views and side views. The only successful attempt at art of any sort was the birthday card I made for my boyfriend. The fact that he is my husband today is only because he showered lavish praise on that “sweet birthday” card I made with active help from my more artistically gifted friends.
And then things changed. Suddenly one lazy weekend while aimlessly flicking through channels I came across this interesting program called “Art Attack” on Disney. The non clinical approach towards art with the instructor actually acting as a guide while allowing his viewers to make mistakes, innovate and lend their interpretation to various projects that he worked on made it really exciting. It also helped that most of his projects were about sticking things together and slapping loads of paint untidily rather than drawing intricate patterns and designs on thick art paper. Actually what really helped is that his projects were for viewers aged 7-10 and therefore none of them intimidated me at all!!! (Ok some of them did not). A few weekends of watching “Art Attack” did the trick. I also discovered something called MAD on Pogo on the same lines. Finally the bug had bitten me. Finally the Art Attack had happened. I ATTACKED all art supplies and art projects with a vengeance and devoured them till the remnants of my attack could not be identified as art.
Some interesting attacks have been:
- Painting a tall biscuit jar into a flower vase. Well here it is proudly housing the bright flowers.
- Painting an unused saucer (unused because first we never bothered with it and then when we thought about restoring its rightful place under the cup during our morning chai routine, the cup broke.) Finally I think the saucer is living its destiny housing the creatures of the sea I have painted on it along with the smiling moon. Don’t ask an artist why? Just absorb the beauty of this piece of art!!! Don’t know what we will do with this, but suggestions anyone???
Other attacks shall follow soon; other unused objects in the kitchen, bathroom and elsewhere shall get transformed into works of art. But what amuses me about this new found hobby is not that I pride myself in creating these obviously juvenile projects but how much I enjoy these art attacks.
I never enjoyed art as a kid. I never painted cute pictures of “my family” that were proudly displayed on the fridge for all to see. I never colored during lazy Sunday afternoons without a care to the world. “Drawing and Painting” (actually add stitching, embroidering, nib painting, soft toy making and all the forms of art “hobby classes” taught) were never my cup of tea. I never liked doing any of it.
Suddenly things have changed. Even while some of my friends go about creating life, their own flesh and blood, their screeching little ones and some others go about attainting great corporate heights I have found happiness in these childish “art attacks”. Friends guffaw when I tell them about this, even my mother is surprised. And what amuses me is that I really enjoy this and often wonder why as a kid when I was supposed to be blissfully trying my hand at art I abhorred it so much. And now I may sound bonkers but the answer to this question brings me to something I passionately believe in and that is the incompleteness and inadequacy of the Indian education system. If this blog had enough readers a lot of them would have jumped out of their seats to defend the famed Indian School Education that produces great IITians, IIM Grads etc etc. I am not for a minute saying that Indian schools do not teach us to slog enough. But I am saying that they do not teach us to think enough, be creative enough and be individual enough. Every time I attend a training session which exhorts us to “think out of the box” the irony of it all never fails to amuse me. We spent all these years at great institutions of learning with only one agenda: “How to think within the strict confines of the box”, reading very specific text books, dealing with specific questions and answering back with even more specific replies. Very Strait Jacketed, no room for any lunatic doubts, no space for a different point of view and definitely no liberty to draw a house with crooked windows in a garden full of red grass under the green sky. And therefore I never drew and painted. I know you think this connection is abstruse but the fact is that it was very inconvenient for most teachers I encountered to let children draw what they wanted to rather than what had been carefully planned for them. I just found it very stifling to copy the “vase full of flowers” in all its perfection, coloring it in the colors prescribed by the text book.
Don’t even get me started on how competitive the Indian Schooling System is. The concept of “doing your best” does not resonate well with Indian teachers, students and parents alike. It always has to be THE best. An even more alien concept is “ENJOY what you do”. The truth is that I never enjoyed drawing and painting because I was never good at it and definitely not the best. The pictures I made were always “wrong”.
Fortunately time passed by and education (which has nothing to do with my degrees) liberated me enough to understand that it is not about drawing the “right” picture but only about a lazy Saturday afternoon in the balcony, sipping some tea and painting away without a care to the world.
“Viva Art Attack”