Art Class – My Achilles Heel

Henry Fitch Taylor

Henry Fitch Taylor (Photo credit: Smithsonian Institution)

This could be part of my Least Favorite Subjects post, but there is a story involved, so I think it merits its own post.

In elementary school, I loved every one of my school subjects.  Now, I didn’t really count two of them as actual classes, because they weren’t really something to learn.  Art and Music were just supposed to be fun time, as far as I was concerned – there wasn’t any real work being done or lessons learned.  OK, art and music teachers, please don’t send me hate mail – although I’m sure it would be beautiful prose.  Please remember – this is all from the point of view of a four- to ten-year-old boy.

In fact, that boy had one trait that made this opinion of art class inevitable: a complete and utter lack of artistic ability.

I’m serious when I say this, too.  I had trouble drawing a convincing stick figure, lollipop-style tree, or even a straight line with a ruler.  To be perfectly honest, the adult into whom this boy grew still can’t draw worth squat – hence my lack of original artwork on this and my other blog.

To add to my frustration, it seemed all my friends had the artistic ability of a Michelangelo or Picasso, which made my work seem like poop.  So, it may have been an ego-defense mechanism to downplay art class in my mind.

One art project in particular stands out in my mind.  I think I was in fourth grade, which would be the 1979-1980 school year.  The school had a kiln, and we had spent a fair number of classes making cups, bowls, plates, and other things out of clay, painting them, and the teacher would fire them up in the kiln.  So, my bowls resembled broken pancakes, my cups pinched popcorn, and my animals some sort of animal dung.  Then, the art teacher, whose name escapes me, sprang this little project on us.

Make A Logo For Your Parents

That’s right, she wanted me to make a logo out of clay.  It had to be some real, honest-to-goodness corporate or product logo.  “Great,” I thought, “I don’t even know what any logos are, let alone what my parents would like.”  We were to go home, look through magazines for advertisements, and bring in the page to use for a model.

At home that night, I started going through my parents’ magazines, looking for the simplest logo I could find of a product that my parents would be even remotely interested in.  I don’t remember how long I looked, but I do remember what I selected.  At the time, my dad smoked cigarettes.  His brand of choice was Marlboro.  And, no – you can be darn sure I didn’t choose Marlboro’s logo!  It was too involved, contained letters, three (THREE!) colors, and that ribbon-shaped thing.  Oh, no – there was another cigarette brand.  One with an easier logo.  I can’t tell you the name, because I sure as heck don’t remember it.  What I do remember is the logo itself: two concentric circles, one blue, one yellow.

Clay II Class - Kiln Loading

Clay II Class – Kiln Loading (Photo credit: Paul Chenoweth)

My idea was brilliant!  An easy-to-make, simple logo of a cigarette for my dad!  Sure, my dad didn’t smoke the brand, but it was something I could do!

I brought the magazine page into school and got to work during art.  I grabbed a compass, and drew a circle.  OK, so the compass got a little wider as I used it, so the lines didn’t match up.  I widened the compass for the outer circle, and this time the compass wiggled out of the first hole.  So, the outer circle was wobbly, with a straight line at more than one place.  I took that template, cut out the clay, and painted it.  I handed it to the art teacher, who gave me a dubious look, but took it anyway.

The next art class, we got our logos back.  Honestly, some of my classmates’ logos were awesome: Ford, with the cursive lettering; Coca-Cola, again with cursive; Marlboro (uh-oh, that should have been me); Duncan Hines; J.C. Penney; Eric Theaters; General Mills….  Each logo had two or more layers of clay, beautifully carved lettering, or pictures.  And… there was mine.

A bumpy, misshapen, blue, yellow and purple (where the two colors had mixed) imperfect dodecagon, or, at least, something that was most definitely anything but a pair of concentric circles.  “Wow,
I thought, “I really stink at art!”

“What the heck is that?!”  The other kids teased, “You really stink at art!”  They had me there, for sure.

So, I brought home my logo.  It was so lumpy that it couldn’t even serve as a coaster.  I gave it to my dad that night.  I remember him looking at it, giving me the same dubious look the teacher gave me, and asked, “What is it?”

“It’s, uh, a logo.  You know, for <Whatever> cigarettes.  I know you like to smoke, so…,” I trailed off, not sure what else to say.

“Oh, OK.  Well, thank you,” Dad managed to say.  But I could see him thinking, what the heck should I do with this?

So, Art class was my one stumbling block in school, and a source of much teasing from my classmates.

So, how about you?  Was Art class your source of embarrassment, like for me?  Or were you more like some of my classmates, one masterpiece away from the art galleries?

This post is for the September Back To School Blog Challenge, hosted by Matt Conlon on Join Something.

September Back To School Blog Challenge