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Published November 05, 2012, 10:13 AM

Artistic flair

I was touring an elementary school recently while the children were working on some Halloween art projects. One young girl came over and gave me the picture she’d drawn of a bat. It was a pretty good-looking bat, and it showed perfectly the concept of symmetry that her teacher had just explained. Half the bat on one side, half on the other.

By: Ryan Taylor, Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — I was touring an elementary school recently while the children were working on some Halloween art projects. One young girl came over and gave me the picture she’d drawn of a bat. It was a pretty good-looking bat, and it showed perfectly the concept of symmetry that her teacher had just explained. Half the bat on one side, half on the other.

That’s how most of us start with art. We pick up a box of crayons when we’re 3 years old, or express ourselves diligently with one of those third-grade art assignments. From there, we grow up and we might do anything from raising food to teaching children; we might heal the sick or build a bridge. But we start with art, and it takes off from there for some unknown reason.

Our kids are anchored in crayons, markers and lots of scrap paper. One of my cousins scored a whole box of scrap paper from her office for us, and we recycle it by having our kids draw on it, cut it up and fold airplanes out of it.

I was the exact same way according to my older relatives — always drawing. My uncle was on the rodeo committee, and if they had leftover rodeo program blanks for the year that weren’t printed on, I’d get them. Big sheets of glossy paper, clean on one side, became my sketch pad. They didn’t stay blank for long.

I had extra encouragement at home, I suppose, since Mom was an accomplished artist. She could sketch with pencils or charcoal, paint with oils or acrylics, and it was all real as could be. She had an eye for detail and she could paint a picture like a camera could take a photo.

She taught me art at home and she brought art to the classroom when her sisters were teaching country school near where she grew up. What kid wouldn’t want some spunky, good-natured lady at the chalkboard who could make horses and cows and hills and trees flow from her fingertips?

“Art” always brings to mind pictures and paintings, but when you say “the arts” you’ve cast a bigger loop that takes in music, poetry, creative writing and acting on the stage. We were lucky to have all the arts in our home and even in our small, rural school district. Mom could play a half dozen musical instruments and wrote a column for many years. Dad would freeze if you ever put him in front of a microphone, but at the kitchen table, he could recount a story with great theatrical presence and a wry sense of humor.

We find the arts in all kinds of places — in our homes, at an elementary school in Bismarck, N.D., or a country school in Red Cross Township, around the kitchen table of a cattle ranch and at Carnegie Hall in New York, at the Louvre in Paris and on the studio sets of Hollywood.

Few of us will ever make our living as an artist, a musician, a writer or an actor — just as few of us will ever make our living as a professional athlete. But, as backyard sports and school athletics can set us up with the basics of keeping our bodies healthy, in home creativity and school bands, theaters and art classes can set us up with the basics of keeping our minds sharp and our lives full.

And that all struck me when a young girl gave me a symmetrical picture of a bat colored in with a black crayon a few days before Halloween.

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