So, I guess fewer kids get to take a quality art class these days. No money for it, and not enough time when you are pounding home the necessities for the standardized tests. Luckily for me, I cruised through school in the heyday of the art class. I think there were three art teachers at my high school? Imagine that. Anyway, all the way from grade school where the highlight of art class was wearing a smock up through my senior year I was without a doubt the worst art student in America. Just terrible.
For some reason, I kept taking the classes, though. I guess they were breezy to get through, but I had absolutely no interest in art. In one of my high school classes we had this weekly “portfolio” or something that had to be turned in with our homework. One time I just straight up traced an old Phillies program. It couldn’t have been more obvious if I ripped the cover off the thing. Somehow, I escaped that incident. One of the art teachers, who wasn’t really lenient on the old grading scale would write things atop my masterpieces like, “I know you are trying–C-minus.” I think art really killed my high school GPA. I was always scraping together a low-B or something because I was turning in things that proud pre-school parents hang on their refrigerator.
I guess there were just too many periods in the day, because there was no escape from these classes. I took Debate (twice), Speech (essentially the same thing), Word Processing, I inexplicably stuck with Spanish for seis anos, and yet still there were holes in my schedule. It made no sense. And, since I certainly couldn’t build anything out of wood or metal without losing a few of my precious digits, and since I didn’t have any interest in learning how to program a computer device, I ended up taking some random art class time after time. The only thing I didn’t get into was photography, but I think that had extra time commitments. Warning! Warning! Effort required.
After the basic, run of the mill, “draw that apple over there,” art class that I took the first year or two they really opened up the curriculum. You got to take this class that was basically Art Shop. I want to say it was called something really strange like, “Art Contract,” but I might have made that up. This class was very popular among students with actual artistic talent. They got to paint, or do some pottery on the wheel which was like crack for these kids. I mean, the pottery wheel might as well been a magic lamp the way people lined up to use this thing. I had no interest in that. You have to know your limitations. And, who cares about pottery?
The teacher of this class knew I was suspect. She knew I had no real business being in there, but early on we developed this kind of understanding where she could help the kids actually interested in art, and I would keep to myself. I think it was after a few weeks of watching me shuffle papers around on my desk (perhaps I was sketching the idea for a sick watercolor or something?) the teacher suggested that I might want to do some leather work. Oooh, leather. A chance to become a real artisan. I agreed to give the old cowhide a shot, having visions of creating a reasonable replica of a Rawlings Gold Glove. Teach said I had to start with something simple…like a belt.
A belt? The teacher appeared much more excited than I was when she returned with what looked to be a skinned cow. I hate to be graphic, but it was a giant roll of leather that was about 1/8 of an inch thick. It was beastly leather. There was nothing soft about this. I think it went for about 10 cents a cubic mile. She thought it would be great for a belt and so I hacked off a piece and got to work. What I learned about the leather working was that I could waste an eternity of time. I could “treat” the leather. I could “dye” it. I could do all of this crap that wasn’t actually doing anything. I spent forever on the thing, and then never put a buckle on it. Who can put a buckle on? Impossible.
The belt really kindled the craftsman’s fire in me. I loved the amount of time I could waste using leather, but after the belt I needed to step it up a notch. It was wallet time, bitches! It’s odd that I would choose a wallet, because I think there was about a 2-minute window where I thought wallets were hot. This was before I actually carried one. Then once I had one, I realized I hated wallets. So, in this season of the wallet I decided I wanted to make one for myself. This time I got to work with actual leather, and I think my leather bill came to about 14 dollars (which I never paid). The wallet went really well until I had to start sewing the pieces together. Total and utter failure. Instead of wasting my time happily, it was taking me entire class periods to execute three stitches.
I want to say the wallet turned out better than the belt, simply because you could put a dollar bill in it and then put the wallet into your pocket, but that wouldn’t do justice to just how bad this wallet looked. I’m kicking myself that I eventually tossed it, because if I could post a picture of the thing, you’d laugh right through the weekend. I guess there is really no slick ending to this tale. I eventually got to the point in my life where I was no longer required to produce visual art, and the world is a less horrifying place because of that. If I had to stick a moral on this bad boy, I’d say, art is in the eye of the beholder, unless I made it, in which case–it’s trash. And, there it is.
Quiz of the Day: Most Populated PA Cities. Category: Home State Geography. My Score: 13/14.
This quiz reminded me of a time in 8th grade Earth Science when our teacher asked us to name something like, “The 11 rivers that bisect the Appalachian Plateau.” We rattled off four or five then he says, “Anyone else? No? All right, figure them out before the test.”