Saturday, September 22, 2007

Art and "the arts"

Questions at the bottom for those who prefer to skip to the end...

My 6-year-old son appears to have a gift for visual art. He loves art, and seems to have good control over his drawing hand, and an ability to copy what he sees pretty well. When we lived in Sarasota, a city known for art, I wanted to sign him up for an art class that was advertised a lot and looked good, but they had a minimum age of 6, and he was 5. By the time he was 6, we had moved back to Texas.

His school here offers art for 1/3 of the year, and he loves that, but honestly, I could tell the school art classes were not going to challenge him to work to the best of his ability and help him learn the techniques he could really benefit from. So I found an outside art class for elementary students, and signed him up. However...when we went to the orientation I wasn't impressed with much that I saw there, and I wanted to try somewhere else first. We went to tour another local art school I'd heard about, and it looked great. There are "classes" in that several students come at once, but the instructon is completely individualized. The room is great and kind of cool-looking (not a tiny childcare classroom like at the other place, but a studio where real art is happening), the grounds have a great atmosphere with chickens, ducks, turkeys, and peacocks wandering around, and best of all, the art on display looked really good. I saw kids not much older than my son making art that looked like someone much older had done it. So we signed him up for a trial class and he loved it, asking how many days until he could come back the next week. I think he is going to get a lot out of it.

I kind of wonder if I should consider taking art myself. In Sarasota, I had plans to take the same art class I wanted to sign him up for. They had a class that taught you to draw a portrait based on a photograph in 5 classes, and I wanted to do that, but chickened out of ever actually going in on my own! (I also couldn't decide who to draw...silly me.) This one would surely be a longer process. I have never really taken an art class. I always assumed real artists had an innate drive to create art, and that if I wasn't driven to do art above all, then I must not be an artist. I was also always stymied by paintbrushes and color choices. However, I've always enjoyed doodling, did take a cartooning class as a child, and particularly enjoy writing in different handwritings and experimenting with different fonts. I think I have a moderate amount of control over my pen. I have wondered if maybe I should take calligraphy. I've avoided that in the past because it looked like too much of the same all the time (basically Zapf Chancery over & over), but of course some people do some really amazing things with calligraphy. I also signed up for a Layout and Design class once that I didn't complete because they expected the students to come into it with good drawing skills.

Meanwhile...my church has recently started helping sponsor an arts organization. The arts it covers are visual art, theatre, music, and dance. I always wonder why writing is not usually considered an art. So many of my concerns as a writer, especially a creative writer, are the same concerns other artists might have, but I notice that arts organizations often limit themsleves to visual and performing arts. I am trying to decide whether to get involved with this organization anyway. It would be a hardship with my baby and family and only one car. But this week, on a night when I can't figure out how I'd get there, they're having theatre games night. I love theatre games! In a way it seems crazy not to go, since I'd love an outlet like that. In another way, I'd be mortified to go, because I think many of the other participants are working actors in local theatre. I haven't done theatre in many years and am not really good at it. I just like it. It also interferes with my kids' activities that night, and probably with my baby's schedule. But I would have moved heaven & earth for such an opportunity last year, when I was in Florida without knowing anyone and feeling desperate for a creative environment.

I pretty much figured I couldn't go, and shouldn't since my main art is writing, but I just found a diary-type book from high school in which I wrote my future goals. 9th grade: "Things I Want to Do in the Future: Be an actress, write, be a wife and mother." 10th grade: "Things I Want to Do in the Future: Be an actress, wife, mother, writer." 11th grade: "What I Want to Be: Actress, writer, work on TV production...? museum worker?" 12th grade: "What I Want to Be: Actress, writer, something involved with Radio/TV/Film." Now, there were a few other things in there--I also wrote that I wanted to go to UT (which I did), live in Santa Fe (no), skydive (no), and ride in a hot air balloon (no), but note that actress came before writer every year back then. I am a wife, a mother, and theoretically a writer, but acting went bye-bye long ago. I don't know if there's any point in pursuing it now just because I said that in the distant past, but there is still a definite draw there for me.

So the questions I have for my patient readers is:

(1) If I might have any talent at visual art, would I already know it by now? Aren't artists generally driven to create art throughout their lives? Is there any point in taking up visual art as an adult? I don't aim to develop strong enough skills to be an illustrator or anything, it would mainly be for fun, but I'm sort of curious whether I could do it.

(2) Why isn't creative writing usually counted as one of "the arts"? I know it sometimes is, as I have read poetry as part of a church "Arts Fest" before, and it is possible to get an MFA in Creative Writing. But it seems like it's only counted rarely. Is it because visual and performing arts are easier to recognize as art or easier to display? Or because there's a very blurry line between, say, expository writing and journalism, some of which is very artful and some of which is purely practical, and art? I think film also gets left out of "the arts" a lot, and it also has some very blurry lines around the edges, but then some people consider it art, also. In fact, my Radio/TV/Film degree from UT-Austin is a Bachelor of Science degree, but at UT-Arlington, Radio and TV were in Liberal Arts, while Film was in the Fine Arts department!

1 comment:

Phyllis in Sarasota said...

I went to architecture school and had a friend who, through the Design coursework over a couple of years, became a competent artist. Her stuff was child-like when she started but really improved after doing the required daily sketches. You can learn to draw well, too.