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Lifelong Learning

Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder: Art Class at the Library

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How to be beautiful March. Image ID: 1543558

Most people can recall, with varying degrees of disconcertment, the subjects in school which posed a distinct challenge for the respective individual. As I have expressed in my prior posts, the subject of mathematics has always represented my academic “Waterloo.”

Art was a close second in terms of subjects which caused me to wish I was anywhere but in the classroom that I was sitting in. My mother couldn’t quite fathom my inability to draw the apple or bowl of pears that was assigned, as my mother drew a sketch of the 1950s skyline, which was so impressive that it appeared in her high school’s newspaper (unfortunately, my mother neglected to sign her work, so she is analogous to many a Medieval artist in terms of anonymity. Midwood High School never realized it was the beneficiary of my mother’s artistic skill).

While I did not inherit the art talent gene, my maternal cousin, Krystal, revels in all matters art and is, in fact, an art teacher. I received a telephone call from Krystal, who resides several states away, inquiring if I saved any of my elementary school drawings. Ever the clutter bug, I did, in fact, save a couple of my childhood attempts at art. Krystal was unable to contain her delight at my still being in possession of my jejune efforts, well, to be charitable, stabs at art. Shocked to the core, I then ruminated that perhaps my ability to draw and paint was underestimated all these years by others and myself, and that like many a renowned artist, my work was finally being given the praise it so richly deserved very remote in time from its’ creation.

Krystal gushed through the phone lines, “You have no idea how happy this makes me! You see, March is National Youth Art Month, and I have a few students who are well, to be diplomatic, not overly adept at drawing or painting. I have stressed to my students that art is a sufficiently broad concept to encompass all creations, but I am concerned about the self-esteem of my less talented students. Accordingly, I have devised a lesson plan wherein I will display works of utterly deplorable art, then explain that the creator of each undecipherable image went on to success in a different area of life. After all, I don’t want to destroy any child’s sense of self simply because he/she can’t accurately draw a tree!” As explained above, I was aware from an early age that I was no budding Mary Cassatt or Auguste Renoir, but until my recent conversation with Krystal, I had nary the clue that my early attempts at art were adjudged so egregious as to constitute the stuff of family legend.

Chôju ryakugashiki = How to draw simple animals. Image ID: 1400996

Being a good sport, I picked up the shards of my sense of self which were liberally strewn about me on the floor following my conversation with Krystal, and sent my two childhood works of “art” to her. Although I didn’t quite enjoy hearing how my works of “art” were to be used by Krystal, my cousin did have an excellent idea. Art is a subject that is comprised of many mediums, and is meant to be enjoyed, not agonized over. The NYPL contains a plethora of books in its’ circulating collection that retain the capacity to encourage young artists of varying degrees of talent on a myriad of art topics.

So, whether you are the parent/guardian/grandparent, etc. of a budding Picasso or a child who imbues the term "abstract art" with new meaning, the NYPL is sure to possess the right book for you! (P.S. "I'm not wearing my art glasses now" was a line that stood my father in good stead right through my graduation from junior high school!)

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