Eighth Grade Art

“Art Stuff” had long been a staple item on the Christmas list, whether that meant simply a new box of crayons or a RoseArt 108 piece kit where the lids were always loose on the cheap markers. I’d pull the pillows off the couch and sprawl out on the floor surrounded by sheets of wide-ruled paper and lost marker lids. I’d draw squares for comic panels and fill them in with stick figures and dogs. Or I’d sketch the spikes of my monster for my future illustrated children’s book about a monster and a kid, because all books were about monsters and kids. You see, everyone was scared of monsters until the age they realized that monsters were actually our best friends.

I was a painter and filmmaker too. I remember going over the canvas carefully with dabs of yellow paint depicting a sunset. Happy little dabs. I remember adjusting the lighting of the living room, moving around the lamps to capture the most artful shot of the cat with the video camera. I was a whirlwind, a wunderkind, a creative genius, an artiste. In fact, I always considered myself an artiste up until eighth grade when the dream all came crashing down.

That was the year I made this.

Eighth grade art wasn’t regular old art class–it was the big leagues and we were no longer drawing bowls of fruit. The white walls of the classroom were awash in sunlight, the smell of paint stung the nostrils, and the staleness of baked earth hung around in the air. We were making stuff from clay and we got to use the kiln. Kids had been clamouring about this–THE KILN–since the middle of seventh grade–or at least since last week.

The teacher was Ms. Howard and she looked like a mermaid with red hair that was teased out for days, rocking sea-foam-green pants that were shiny and made a swishing sound when she walked.  All her clothes were from New York and she had a different pair of ten inch heels to go with every outfit. Some rumors said she used to be a stripper. Some rumors said SHE WAS ON CRACK NO JOKE. But I knew the truth, that she was just an artiste.  We are misunderstood.

I wasn’t interested in making bowls or pinch pots, painting my name on them. So philistine.  I wanted to make a statement.  My statement is about perspective, because sometimes the mouse can be big and the cat can be small. Yes, that’s what that glob of misshappen crap is–an enormous mouse head with a teeny tiny cat sitting atop. No matter your size you can still stand tall and mighty. I was like that mouse.

Ms. Howard must have seen that I was an artiste like her because she took a liking to me, encouraging my brand of “creativity” and helping me dip the newspaper in the glue, sitting uncomfortably close like the weird and vaguely hot teachers always do. She smelled like coffee and fruity perfume which must have been from New York too.

I recall being quite proud of this at the time–while everyone else would take home some crappy bowl to donate to their mother’s bookshelf, I would take home a piece of art.

Except now I do not see art. I see a pink blister that’s supposed to be a smile. I see a post-nuclear malformed turd. I see that I was not meant to be an artiste. Artistes are graceful and slender-jawed–not weird, oafy kids with shaky hands and glasses.

And as for the teeny tiny cat…

Well that just looks like a poop. It’s still a perspective piece, but the perspective is different now–some days you’re just decidedly the color of yellow diarrhea with a piece of shit on your head. In fact, that describes one of my days at work last week.

I remember seeing that thing come out of the kiln. THE KILN.  Another something that didn’t turn out the way I had it pictured in my head. Story of my life. There was that time I nearly broke my sister’s nose after dropping my Dad’s MagLite flashlight on her face. That’s eight D batteries smashing into her face from fifteen feet above off the deck.  The blood gushed.  Whatever it was I had pictured in my head, THAT definitely was not it.

And finally, here’s proof that my mother loves me. If my kid made this, I would laugh in their face. And yet, next to the ceramic dog and duck, on the entertainment center under the Blu-ray player, sits my nuclear diarrhea mouse. It ain’t like I just made this last week and my Mom’s just being nice about it. I am twenty nine and I made this when I was thirteen.

But only mothers can love you in this blind way–sitting it next to something as class act as that duck.  When the girlfriend saw this, she laughed the way a significant other generally reserves for your middle school yearbook photos and when you trip up the stairs.

I think it’s time to gather up all my missing marker lids and pack up my RoseArt kit.  Time to go home.  The periwinkle colored pencil was never used, a stupid color anyway.  What’s it for?  Sure you could use it to color the sky, but I prefer my sky robin’s egg blue.  Periwinkle’s the kind of color you play golf in.

There’s a postscript for Ms. Howard out there somewhere.  I like to think she’s taking the art world by storm–afterall, that is what artistes  do.  As for me, well perhaps it ought to be Pacific Ocean blue for the sky.  Oh, I’ve got time to decide while I’m on my way back.  Maybe magic scent blueberry.  It makes me hungry. I am hungry.

13 thoughts on “Eighth Grade Art

  1. The only 3-D school art project my mom has left of mine is a slowly disintegrating clump of sawdust spackled with patchy glitter; I think, at some point, it was supposed to be a bird’s nest. Your piece is WAY cooler.

    To be honest, at first glance I took it to be some sort of alien brain parasite popping out of the mouse-host’s skull and waving hello. But even though it’s not, it’s still awesome.

  2. I think this may be my favourite post of yours thus far, for both the art teacher, and how you thought of yourself when you were young.

    She sounds like a pretty awesome lady. Anyone who inspires and encourages kids to use whatever talents they have, or think they have, is okay in my book.

    I’m an illustration student, and the way you described her sounds like a few girls I’m in school with, actually.

    And I hope you give those markers and periwinkles one last try. You never know when your fingers’ll get that “I need to draw” itch.

  3. The mouse was much more artistic than the crap I made! When my class was making bowls, I also wanted to be different. So, I poked holes all over it and declared it a strainer. Yep, a ceramic strainer……. My mom still has it in the china cabinet.

  4. Really though…have you seen the shit they have in museums these days? Your piece is a revelation in comparison. Unfortunately I never had such a hot slutty teacher like yours. I wish I did though. lol.

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