My Love / Hate Relationship With Art

My Love / Hate Relationship With Art

In my Happy Things in my home post, I showed a picture of my favorite piece of artwork ever – the scratch board lion.  A lot of you left nice comments about my lion and mentioned how I should do art again.  I probably should do more art, but I very much have a love/hate relationship with art these days.

What makes a cantering horse drawing better?  A horn.
What makes a cantering horse drawing better? A horn.

Growing up, art was my passion long before I became interested in creative writing.  For whatever reason, I was slightly above average at it when I was a little kid.  That turned into getting special attention from my elementary art school teacher, which turned into some awards at the state fair and all of a sudden I was a child artist.

Watercolor.  7th grade?
Watercolor. 7th grade?

My parents were super supportive of this talent, and kept me stocked with whatever art supplies I wanted within reason.  They didn’t get upset when I ruined lots of clothes with acrylic paint, and they let me paint the walls of my bedroom in high school.

So naturally, I painted ponies.
So naturally, I painted ponies.
I also painted furniture
I also painted furniture
Van Gogh nightstand.  The top was Starry Night
Van Gogh nightstand. The top was Starry Night

As I moved into high school, art became even more exciting because now it was a full hour a day, every day.  I took every art class the school offered except for sculpture (I’m awful at sculpture).  My senior year, I finagled the perfect schedule: 3 out of 6 class hours for art.  AP art was a thing, and it padded my GPA for college in an oh so excellent way.

Arabian made of shapes.  Freshman year?
Arabian made of shapes. Freshman year?
2002, Junior year
2002, Junior year
Basset Hound mixed media
Basset Hound mixed media
Betta fish watercolor
Betta fish watercolor

Generally I painted, sketched and crafted animals of all shapes and sizes.  Some of my favorite works are sloppy acrylic messes thrown on giant pieces of cardboard.  My senior year, acrylic became my favorite medium because I could be just a little bit careless and still mange to fix everything.

Carousel horse
Carousel horse
We painted the cabinets of our art room... so I did pastel ponies
We painted the cabinets of our art room… so I did pastel ponies
Acrylic tiger with a slightly smushed face
Acrylic tiger with a slightly smushed face
Native north American animals that I painted until I got tired of painting them
Native north American animals that I painted until I got tired of painting them

About halfway through high school, I decided I wanted to pursue some career in art.  I had always been good at it, won awards and people told me they liked my stuff… so it seemed natural?  Of course, something interesting started to happen as soon as I formally decided I wanted to go to art school.

Almost life size Rhino on cardboard
Almost life size Rhino on cardboard
The Abercrombie & Fitch on this model's shirt dates me
The Abercrombie & Fitch on this model’s shirt dates me
Self Portrait that kinda looks like I did?
Self Portrait that kinda looks like I did?

It began as a murmur, but my wildlife watercolors and horse paintings weren’t enough anymore.  I needed to be more outside the box!  More abstract!  More worldly!  I started trying to shift from subjects I was comfortable with and reaching for the ‘painted artist”.

Charcoal sketch of Native American
Charcoal sketch of Native American

The problem?  I’m not a pained artist.  I never was.  I like photo realistic stuff with a minor twist.  I don’t want to paint a suffering swamp creature being tortured by today’s capitalistic society… but that’s what I started to do because I thought I should.

Mixed media.  I actually liked this one
Mixed media. I actually liked this one

And the art got pretty shitty.


When I did end up applying to art school, I choose the NCSU School of Design.  Growing up in Raleigh, I was born and raised with “Wolfpack in the house!”  The design school had a great reputation, and it was an obvious choice.

Elephant study pen & ink
Elephant study pen & ink
Tiger pen & ink
Tiger pen & ink

I got in academically with no problem, and spent weeks and weeks pulling together my giant black portfolio stuffed with art.  Everything the design school suggested you bring to the interview, I brought including graphic design, writing samples and photography.  I busted my ass.  I really, really wanted it.

Show jumper block print
Show jumper block print

So naturally, I bombed the interview.

Looking back, I think it roots back to a mix of me thinking I needed to be something different than what I was and the fact that I simply applied to the wrong major.  I went for Fine Arts, where they basically told me in the interview that it should have been Graphic Design instead.  Web design was still a pretty new thing back then, and I was one of the few high school seniors that had lots of design experience in my pocket.

I call this 'giant red horse with tiny legs'... one of my favorites
I call this ‘giant red horse with tiny legs’… one of my favorites

I got into my second choice fine arts program, but I was so upset about the NCSU Design School rejection that I stopped art entirely.  I did go to NCSU anyway, but majored in English and Creative writing.  It took several years before I painted anything again, and I can count on one hand the paintings I’ve done since college.

The most recent large scale painting I've done, and it was from 2007?
The most recent large scale painting I’ve done, and it was from 2007?

At that point in my life, I wasn’t very used to being told that I wasn’t good at something.  I didn’t handle it well.

Now, I totally get it.  I was never an amazing artist.  Never a prodigy by any means. Some stuff was nice, and some stuff was average.  I don’t hold a grudge, but I do get frustrated because what many people don’t realize is that art is a practiced skill.  I’m so out of practice, that it takes me a lot of time and effort to get anything half decent these days.  Most times I pick it up, I get so frustrated that I immediately set it back down.

A 2"x2" dog portrait.  Now this kind of stuff I still enjoy because it's no pressure
A 2″x2″ dog portrait. Now this kind of stuff I still enjoy because it’s no pressure

I can doodle a mean hunter/jumper horse during a long work meeting though 😉  Do you have any secret or not so secret talents?

42 thoughts on “My Love / Hate Relationship With Art

  1. I literally could have written this post myself…. always a doodler, got noticed for it in elementary/middle school, really got noticed and won some decent awards in high school, and as soon as it was spoken of as a career shut the eff down and haven’t picked it up since. And I get just as devastated when I think about how awful I’ve become from not practicing.

    PS I would have killed for Lippizaner stallions painted on my wall.

  2. I never was a prodigy at art, though I have an eye for layout and design (thus I am the master of print design!). However, I understand how to draw and how it is simply a form of hand/eye coordination. What your eye sees (or imagines) your hand must draw exactly. It’s hard, but not impossible. And? It’s a learnable skill. People are always incredulous when I tell them this.

    But seriously. If my sad self could teach herself to draw what her eye sees, anyone can. After all, everyone in the 18th century learned to draw. Right?

    1. Absolutely. I think most art skill is in the practice part, which I was good at… what I wasn’t good at was the “arty” side of things and that’s why I got denied to art school 😀 I do miss that Van Gogh table, don’t know where it went!

    2. YES. Anyone can draw – the key is applying yourself to understanding how to manipulate the materials, and learning how to see. It’s sad that so many kids quit making art once they get their first negative feedback.

      The skill that can’t be taught is creativity I think. (graphic designer who really wanted to sculpt ;D)

  3. I totally understand! I sang for YEARS… was pretty decent, got a lot of solo parts in school & church, joined a barbershop group… but when the time came to choose between going hardcore into music and horses, I chose horses. Music is still something I enjoy for fun, but I’m glad I didn’t decide to pursue it seriously, because I’m just not that talented. My younger brother, however, is about to get his band signed by a big record company, so he definitely made up for me not going into music!

  4. I am absolutely talentless. I think there are some areas I could develop a skill at but as far as anything being natural for me? No way.

    Pretty much the only thing people can say if you were to ask them what I’m good at would be “She’s really smart.” Which is fine with me. But I’m not talented at sports or art or anything like that.

    My college equestrian coach actually said “You need to take your talent, dedication, and athleticism and do something else, because this isn’t it.” And even I know the talent and athleticism parts were just to pad the blow of being told I should quit riding.

  5. Interesting…my roommate after school and close friend was also an incredible artist but she too let it die…such a shame because you both have so much talent!

    I also painted my dresser – I am also an artist and also like to most do animals but mainly because I suck at people. Sculpting is my ultimate fav though.

    I find creativity hits you at the strangest times and I find it hard to find time to do much else.

    At the very least – you are very talented!

  6. I have a love hate relationship with art as well. I went to school with kids that were (and still are) truly phenomenal…. My “secret” skill is cooking and baking… I can eat most anything once and can recreate it which is like a superpower in my circle of friends…

  7. I got yelled at by a college art teacher for giving it up for nursing school. That said, my drive to do anything more than doodle pretty much died way back then. My mom is obnoxiously good at pretty much any media she tries but always wants to try something new instead of really perfecting what she’s best at (many artists curse) and I think then she gets down because the new stuff isn’t as good.

    I get the urge but get overwhelmed with the choices in media, subject, etc. Plus the whole work, mom, house thing guilts me from taking the time.

  8. Wow. Beautiful pieces! That polar bear from when you were so young shows that you certainly have raw talent, even before you developed your skills further over the years. That dresser is amazing, too.

    I used to sing in high school. I got pretty good, actually – opera competitions, honor choirs, state honor choirs, etc. I did it for a bit in college too, but lost interest. That and playing guitar are hobbies that I enjoy doing but do not enjoy developing skills in, whereas in riding I love to learn and improve. In singing and guitar, I just like playing for the fun of it. Critical difference there.

  9. I used to program all the time when I was a kid. I would spend hours a day writing programs for this particular game that I enjoyed, starting when I was around 8 years old. Unfortunately when I got into HS I started failing at math, which is somewhat critical for more in depth software development, and that led me to believe that I couldn’t do it. So I quit. Now I’m back in school for it and I have rediscovered just how much I love it, but it’s HARD now that I’m out of practice. Same goes with writing. I used to rock out some amazing creative writing pieces in my younger years. Then I got out of practice and now if I’m not interested in the prompt, I don’t even try.

  10. This was a very interesting story. Do you think that you might have stuck with it if you had not been told to branch out your style? What is wrong with being a wildlife/animal artist? I loved drawing animals and still life’s, but became annoyed when others told me to draw people. I spent hours on a human portrait to prove myself, but the subject didn’t interest me enough to dedicate that kind of time.

    1. Maybe? Probably? I think I could have learned to be better at people/other subjects, but really the rejection was just too hard for me. That’s not a great thing to admit to someone either!

  11. OK, so obviously since I ended up going to NCSU’s College of Design, I could write a book in response to this post.

    I started out as Animal Science and when that wasn’t really jiving with me decided to fall back on my love of art and transfer into the Design school. Ha- you weren’t kidding about the interview process. Super hard core.

    I had also taken AP Art in HS and was also President of the National Art Honors Society, so I thought (cockily) that I was a shoe-in for the Design School. Turns out I got in by the skin of my teeth. They told me I was one of the last ones in, since my portfolio didn’t explore many subjects and therefore lacked breadth. (Pretty much all animal-related artwork in a few different mediums). I ended up being one of the top students in my class though, so I think the interview/acceptance process is somewhat flawed. I also tried to transfer from Art & Design to the Graphic Design program about half way through, and was denied. I guess once you’re in, you’re in.

    While Design school obviously taught me a ton, it definitely was no walk in the park. There are couches in Leazar building for a reason- design students have to sleep somewhere! It seems to me like you’ve had a great career- I was so jealous when I heard you got the SmartPak job and I think the Social Media stuff is wicked cool. I guess I’m trying to say, it looks like you ended up where you were meant to be, and that it seems like a pretty cool place!

    (Also, I NEVER draw anymore. Trying to work on that… So little time!)

    1. The interview was truly nuts, and I just totally sucked at it. Part of me wishes I had tried again, but it wasn’t meant to be. I’m pretty happy with my career choices and have gotten to do some cool stuff! I have no doubt it was an extremely tough school, and I would have had to work MUCH harder at NCSU if I did the design school versus my Education program 😉

  12. I have zero hidden talents. Well, I have a double jointed thumb, but I don’t think that really counts, does it?

    I am in love with the show jumper block print. It’s so bright and vibrant and fun! I am not very creative or artistic, so I really enjoy seeing cool art that other people produce.

  13. Of all the things that suck about adulthood, realizing that you’re not nearly as talented and/or clever as you were told you were (and/or thought you were) is one of the worst. I landed hard in college when I realized that literally everyone around me was smarter than I was and I had better bust ass. It worked out, but whew, is that not a fun lesson.

  14. My 6th & 7th grade art teacher told me I wasn’t allowed to use horses in my projects any more after awhile… I never liked her.

  15. I feel this way about my writing and photography. I love both, but I’m quite certain that making a career out of either of them is out of the question. Would I love to write a book, with some of my own photography involved? Sure. But, much like you, I learned a long time ago that the people who thought I was amazing when I was a kid were just slightly biased 😉

    To someone who can barely draw a stick figure, however…your work kicks some serious ass! 😀

  16. I feel liek we are very similar in the art field!

    I took it in college after following a similar path to yours in high school and realized I was not a tragically pained, starving artsit type and I couldn’t MAKE my art be what it wasn’t. I got rally good at drawing people, but that was about it.

    I LOVE acrylic still and dabble in pen work, mostly horses-of course. But I could never make it my job. Maybe commissions type dealeo, but yeah. Feel. you.

  17. Love this post!

    I draw, pen and pencil but that’s about it. I never mastered charcoal, acrylics or watercolors, but I also sew and in the truck I can sing like nobody’s business. I loved drawing but also gave it up for the most part after high school. Just started dabbling in it again and it’s just like riding a bike. Takes a few sketches to dust things off, work out the kinks and get rolling again, but it’s still there after all these years.

  18. I used to play the trombone? It doesn’t really count because even though I was actually good at it- I never liked to practice! I dropped it as soon as I left high school and lost my embouchure so now when I try to play I just make squeaking noises.

    I’m jealous of your creative talents! Love seeing your art!

  19. Just looked back at this post. Your paintings and drawings are really nice! I draw sometimes to but I don’t practice all the time so I haven’t been able to produce something great. I like watercolors and sketches, but texture and making the picture look more real, like your unicorn or self portrait, is still something I’m not good at.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.