Metro-East Living

Even someone with no art talent can appreciate the work of others

BND columnist Terry Mackin created this hand turkey as he did every Thanksgiving as a child.
BND columnist Terry Mackin created this hand turkey as he did every Thanksgiving as a child.

Last weekend, I visited Art on the Square in downtown Belleville.

I’m amazed at the creativity and talents of the artists who travel to Belleville and set up their tents.

I’m impressed at the creativity and talents of the local high school artists at the High School Exhibit. Students from local high schools submit their best artwork to win awards. Clay sculptures. Charcoal sketches. Watercolors. Personal portraits. Impressive.

Sometimes, as I look admiringly at the high school artists’ work, I’m asked, “Are you an artist?”

After a laugh, my response is something like: “No. I’m art-challenged. My stickmen are crooked.”

Ask me and I will tell you, without hesitation:

▪  I can’t draw.

▪  I can’t paint.

▪  I can’t sculpt with clay.

When it comes to art, I’m confident I have no talents or skills.

Definitely, I lack confidence in art, which usually comes when you have no artistic talents or skills.

I have friends who are art teachers. They have told me that some people have more natural art skills than others, of course. But most people have natural art talents that are hidden and repressed. They use me as an example. Along the way, someone told me I’m not an artist. I believed them.

I don’t remember anyone telling me I’m not an artist. I have never asked anyone, either. I can see it myself. I have never tried art, seriously. No focus. No confidence. Along life’s many paths, I’m sure someone told me I’d never be a surgeon, astronaut, professional athlete or Olympic swimmer or diver, either. I believed them, too. And moved on.

As a child, I preferred ball gloves and footballs over crayons and Play-Doh. I remember getting in trouble for eating crayons and Play-Doh. Those bright colors looked tasty; I was a sucker for red, orange or yellow. Fruity colors. Starburst! Not green, though. Vegetables.

My late mother was an amateur artist. She sketched and painted several landscapes. She was a very impressive artist when you consider her hands were deformed from arthritis. One of her paintings hangs in my home today. Mom never pushed me into art, though. She may have seen all the crayons and Play-Doh I ate. She didn’t want to take a chance on paints or charcoal.

My two kids were solid artists in high school. My son Corey won a few awards for his pottery work. My children had a positive art teacher, Dave Woesthaus, at Althoff Catholic High School. He inspired confidence and made art fun for them.

Me? Well I remember drawing a few bunnies in grade school around Easter. A lot of tacky craft work involving glitter, cotton balls, Elmer’s glue and Popsicle sticks. I’m not sure if they were arts or crafts. Neither in my case, really.

My aunt and grandma made me try ceramics to pass time while they babysat me. Sloppy coffee cups, bowls and ash trays. The details of art projects didn’t match my short attention span. Often, I just got my ceramics done in a hurry so I could grab a Moon Pie and watch “Andy Griffith Show” reruns.

I did not take art classes in high school or college. Why? Same reasons I never took calculus, Latin or anatomy.

In hindsight, my favorite childhood art projects occurred every Thanksgiving. We’d stick a hand flat on a white sheet of paper and trace the outside perimeter of our hands. It was our annual “hand turkey.” We had a lot of fun painting or coloring them.

My “hand turkey” was very Irish in appearance. Thick. Short. Meaty. Chubby feathers and head. Not long and sleek like the tall, skinny kids’ hand turkeys. My hand turkey looked more like a ham.

Every year, I gave my “hand turkey” to my mom on Thanksgiving. She thanked me and placed it in the kitchen drawer. A good place to store a stack of them. And hide them.

This past week, after 45-plus years, and motivated by last weekend’s visit to Art on the Square, I tried my hand at another hand turkey. Five-minute time limit. I used Sharpie markers because I knew I would not eat one. I was pressed for time. No mulligans. First try only. You be the judge. Someone along my life’s journey, someone wise told me I wasn’t an artist.

Good advice.

I believe them, still.