Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Gluesticks and Construction Paper, A Return to My Roots

Okay, so the above picture is not an illustration. But it does illustrate what I have been busying myself with the past two days. My dear neighbor and friend, N, got roped into decorating for our children's school's Spooky Chicken BBQ on Friday night. The “Spooky” was added after someone finally realized that the 29th fell on Halloween weekend and wouldn’t that make a fun theme? A theme that required decorations. Knowing that I am one of those "creative types,” N approached me to see if I had any ideas. I haven't designed anything tangible in a very long time. It sets me into a bit of performance panic when I am asked to fashion something that someone can actually hold in her hands or hang on a wall. As much as I am completely infatuated with digital art, it can tether any form of creativity beyond my Wacom Tablet and Photoshop. I always want to get back to basics- paints and brushes, my Prismacolor and graphite pencils- but I haven’t had the luxury or the allowance to return to the more palpable experience of illustrating that those implements provide. I, also, haven't had many opportunities, since The Baby came to fruition, to volunteer or contribute to my children's schools. I have been feeling guilty about that. Taking on this assignment, was a way to very temporarily ease my regret and to also let me return to my roots as an artist- all the way back to that time in second grade when my construction paper and glue mural of a clown was honored at the city wide elementary school art show at the Buffalo Convention Center.

My mother, the newly retired 1st grade teacher who has been reincarnated as a substitute teacher, has been so benevolent over the years with her left over craft supplies that we could have dedicated one of the children's rooms as a storage locker for craft sticks, construction paper, foam balls, googly eyes, paints, etc. It has come in handy when Princess Commando has company and they've exhausted all roads leading away from boredom. As I never take inventory, I was unaware that all of the “Halloween” colors were missing. N was going to pick up orange paper so that our kids could decorate cut out pumpkins. In the meantime, I needed to make sure that I could crank out something else that could fill in a Halloween tableau on the cafeteria walls. I started the first of the cutouts, very simplistic bats, before Princess Commando arrived home on the big cheese. She was puzzled when she saw the torn up pieces of paper and oddly shaped silhouettes scattered about the dining room table. "Mom, what are you doing?" I had gotten carried away. I was in a kindergarten, paper crafting, muddledness. The Baby was occupied under the dining room table, ripping my scraps into even more minuscule bits. And, because she was quiet, I kept going- cutting out free-form monsters with bulging eyes and bubbly appendages.

I had forgotten how comforting the tactile sensation of holding construction paper between your fingertips is. As is the feel of scissors (I don’t even have grown up scissors, so I used the rounded tip kid cutters) opening and closing along the path of your outline. And the untidiness of it all, the fuzzy fibers of colored paper stuck to your fingertips by the sticky glue, the paper refuse besprinkled about your feet, the crayons and markers littered upon the table, gave me a feeling of abandon I don’t usually enjoy (as I am the one normally cleaning up after someone else’s creative fling). My products were far from noteworthy. But, the experience was cathartic- crawling back into the artistic womb. It’s too bad my mother is retired. I could really use some more construction paper.

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