I’ve previously written about my hard times completing my Bachelor of Education. Yet, there were also some beautiful times amidst the struggles that I experienced during that time.
One such ray of light was a class my cohort took together, a course on teaching art to kids. In this class we explored the basics of artistic composition and art history, as well as playing around with various mediums and styles.
The class was EXTREMELY polarizing- people either loved it or hated it. Happily, I was one of the ones who loved it. Our teacher, a wise young woman named Tessa, exuded an air of calm, whimsy, and a hint of rebellion. I looked forward to her classes very much- she was flown in from Edmonton regularly to our small northern municipality.
We did things like unrolling a giant roll of white paper, circling it like a group of witchy practitioners in a chant, loosely dripping black india- ink from large brushes. Later we ripped off pieces from the resulting scroll which we turned into landscapes filled with strange creatures and bugs. I kept an additional scrap and made this cat:
For the class, each of us had a large black sketchbook, and Tessa encouraged us to draw in it at least once a day. Again, for some of my classmates this was torturous, but for me it was the first hint that art was something I needed in my life. It had been a long time since I’d carried a sketchbook around or devoted myself to playing with art, and it turned out to be very cathartic and calming for me.
One project was to create our own personal emblems through a print stamping process- I was stuck on what to design for myself, but ended up creating something that incorporates hints of sun rays, book curvature, flower and pawprint.
At times many of the class, including myself, became caught up in the particulars of their art, feeling inadequate or not ‘good enough’. I now realize though that the act of creating something is its own reward.
Playing with colour, mixing and dabbing, moulding and sketching- you don’t have to hold yourself to some imaginary standard to enjoy making art. If anything, enjoy it as an opportunity to incorporate play into your life and let the colours awaken your sight and boost your mood, regardless of what the end result is.
^ I remember making this weird slapdash thing thinking ‘wtf am I making’ but I just went along for the ride and had fun with it. I’m not particularly fond of it, but nor do I dislike it.
Another approachable way to have fun with art is to reinterpret or play with parts of a work you admire. This piece, inspired by Munch’s ‘The Scream’ aims to portray the technological fears and intense panic attacks I was experiencing back in those days.
The entire course felt different from the rest of our studies. It stands out in my mind as colourful splash amidst an ocean of grey lecture rooms. We were so used to sitting at tables diligently discussing theories and studying facts that in contrast the freedoms of learning about art in that sunny room with Tessa felt like a spiritual journey.
One day she told us to find an elevated area like a table or counter and lie on our backs. I lay there, expectant. Tessa noticed me fidgeting and staring up at the industrial roof.
She asked ‘what do you see up there that is so interesting, Shauna?’
I replied ‘Im looking for an interesting angle. We’re painting the shapes on the roof today aren’t we?’
Tessa laughed and smiled at me, ‘Oh, no! Close your eyes. We are going to do a guided meditation’. It was lovely.
Something very strange happened as the course came to an end. We did a sculpture project in which Tessa directed us to create a mask that represents a different side of us- perhaps one that we don’t show to people, one that represents the monsters pulling at us each day.
My mask design, with pinhole eyes reminiscent of a Dave McKean creation, represented my anxiety and narrow focus, something that I was struggling with increasingly at that time.
This was before my “hell practicum”, but even then I was in a bad place mentally.
Tessa advised us to take our sculptures, which represented our anguish and pain, and take them into the woods, leaving them to succumb to the rain and return to the earth.
I thought it was a beautiful idea, so on a sunny day I took my dog Tegan with me for a walk on the nature trails.
I gave my sculpture to the earth, hiding it behind a memorable tree with a spray-painted face.
A mere couple of days later I returned to the spot, fully expecting to see my sculpture still there in the bush. It hadn’t rained, and I placed it somewhere out of the eyesight of a casual passerby.
Yet, it was gone…
Even more strangely, something was left in its place. Right in the very spot that my mask once lay was pile of…Lentils? Seeds? To this day I’m not really sure, but I keep thinking that fairies made off with my statue and left me a little gift in return.