Coloring outside the lines

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor


Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Vincent Van Gogh, Leonardo da Vinci, Norman Rockwell.

They're all names synonymous with art.

One thing for sure–you will never see my name listed among those masters.

I can't draw a straight line with a ruler. 

I make a mess with paint by numbers.

Even my husband has noticed I don't doodle when I have a pad and pen. I just write my name in assorted ways.

So when Kay Mayton asked me a few weeks ago if I would take an art class with her under the tutelage of Sean Mullins, I of course said yes.

What? Yes? I had a momentary lack of sense but blurted out yes before I could even think about all the reasons I should say no.

As the time drew closer to the class,  my apprehension mounted by leaps and bounds.

What had I agreed to? 

When I saw Sean a couple days before the class, he said he was looking forward to seeing me.

"Don't expect much," I warned.

Last Friday, armed with paper towels and baby wipes and dressed in a bleach-splattered shirt, I met Kay and several other friends at Sean's studio.

I confess. My stomach was in knots.

Hey, I know my limitations. Painting, drawing, doodling–they're all beyond my scope of expertise.

I already had my mind made up if Sean said anything–anything–critical about my painting ability, I would cry. 

I would burst into tears, sob with great hiccups and then he would move on to the next student and leave me alone.

As the class began, I had Rosie Connolly sit beside me. She had never painted either and I knew we could flunk this class together–just the way friends are supposed to.

Sean first gave an overview of what we would do and then we began step-by-step.

I looked around and Rosie had already put paint to canvas while I was sitting there staring blindly at the tools in front of me.

That's when Sean stopped her and told her we hadn't primed the canvas yet.

I was relieved. I wasn't the first one to mess up. But I was also disappointed. Rosie had stolen my thunder about being the first one to flunk.

As the evening went on, Sean showed great patience with everyone in the class, most of which were first-time painters.

He offered advice, showed technique and made suggestions.

When he came to me near the end, he looked at what I had done on my canvas and proclaimed that my island looked like a chocolate chip cookie.

And it did. That's maybe because I hadn't eaten and was subliminally wishing for a dozen of them.

With a little tan-colored paint, I transformed the chocolate chips into rocks–or at best coconuts-and finished my first piece of art.

I moved around the room, looking at other ladies' pieces. Mine looked nothing like theirs, although they were all supposed to be the same.

My heart fell a little. Maybe I had flunked and just didn't realize it.

I stepped back, took a few pictures and then it slapped me in the face like the Florida heat does when you leave an air conditioned office.

While I wouldn't be able to sell this new creation for $5 at a yard sale, the real point was I had $200 worth of fun.

And I had actually painted something I wasn't ashamed of. 

It wasn't the biggest palm tree in the class. It wasn't painted on an island that looked inviting–unless you crave chocolate chip cookies. It wasn't the best one among seven wannabe artists.

But I had fun.

So much in fact, I signed up for the next class in a few weeks.

Poor Sean.  He doesn't know what kind of monster he has created.

Or maybe he does.

Chocolate chip cookies, anyone?