As seen in
When I Grow Up Goings-On
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For serious, Kat McBride is just one of my favorite people. Not only is she an amazeballs artist (no, she doesn’t “just” do portraits – she does “superhero portraits” & “mermaid portraits“!) that made my family cry happy-tears when I gifted them with her work, not only is she an amazeballs teacher (if you think you can’t draw, she’ll prove you otherwise), but now she wrote this. So proud you’re reading it here first!
Original picture by Kat
You thought you had it all figured out, the passion, the drive, the energy, and plan after plan. 5 year plans, Effective Escapes, business plans, fiscal plans; you’ve got ‘em. Then it hits you – you want to be something else. You want to be a this AND… There is a piece missing — something you didn’t account for in your planning.
Don’t you know that I’m an Artist?
I knew since I was 12 that I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to make art that would move people, stir something in their souls, like the next Frida Kahlo and Monet rolled into one. I was born to be an artist.
While in art college I kept a part time job at the local arts’n’crafts store and during the summer I drew the short straw to host the budding artist summer camps. Imagine: a 10′x15′ room packed sardine-full of kids, ages 6-16.
I thought that I was a Fine Artist at the time, poised to create the next great masterpiece of our time. To say I was grouchy about teaching this room full of kids, babysitting, an understatement.
Our activities guide that was full of hackneyed and out-dated craft projects for foam-stickered jewelry boxes and pony-beaded bracelets. (Perfect for a teen boy, not.)
That first lesson was hard. Beaded bracelets for the little ones, birdhouse painting projects for the older ones.
A chorus of “I’m booooooooooooooooored.” Plus a few, this is stupids. And, ugh, “you’re the worst art teacher ever.”
Well, What do you want to learn?
Ooooh no. I knew what bad art teachers were like, I had my share of them. I knew what an amazing difference a great art teacher could mean in the life of a budding artist. ”What do you want to learn?” I asked.
Cue The Price is Right fail noise, right now.
They didn’t know. It was summer, what kid wants to learn anything during summer vacation? How can you know the answer to a question you’ve never thought about?
I peppered them with questions — we were in this thing for 2 weeks and the preplanned activities were more of the (boring and stupid) crafts from earlier, I was not going to add Worst Teacher Ever, June 2003, to my imaginary resume.
We fumbled together, sometimes I just drew things that they asked me and they tried to copy the image. “What do you really like?” Then I would draw it. I would break it down, step-by-step on a white board or a piece of poster board and we would redraw it together.
“I’ll never be as good as you. I’m not an artist.” Came a voice from the back. (I think this sentiment is BS, no matter your age, beteedubs. The only reason you are not an artist is because you stopped being an artist as a child. Someone judged your work too harshly, and killed the creative kid that loved the smell of a new box of crayons. Solution? New box of crayons. The big one.)
We started over. I hacked the curriculum that I knew from art school– figure drawing and still life, shading and color theory, stippling, line width, how to properly load a brush, perspective. Every child, every age, and a few parents a little ways into the classes, followed the lessons.
I always thought I wanted to be an Artist. An artist; that’s it, period, end of story, thank you very much.
I didn’t go into the classroom seeking to innovate.
It was my turn to take what was usually the most hated chore in the store. (Seriously, cleaning bathrooms was more favored among our crew.)
After 7 years of knowing deep in my bones that I was destined to be an artist when I grew up, something shifted that summer. There were more classes: we developed a Crash Course to Anime class, and a Totally UnBoring Still Life for Kids class, a week long calligraphy class, a Prismacolor Pencils Primer, and a Sharpie Marker Sneaker workshop.
I wasn’t just a teacher, I was a parent-kid liaison. I was a marketing/networking/coordination machine (although I had no idea at the time what the heck marketing or networking were.) I was a product tester, craft demonstrator, project engineer, and creative maven. More of my days were scheduled in the classroom as an activities director than they were out on the floor as a cashier or stock girl.
But that summer I stopped being an artist and starting being an Artist And _. Minimum wage clerk but a well-loved art teacher and artist.
And, But, and Or will get you pretty far.
So, what do you do if you planned your entire life around being one thing, one type of person, one career?
Life isn’t over, you shift, you pivot, you add it all together, and you work with it.
And sometimes it happens accidentally, and you love it.
Kat is an avid artist, creative maven, mom, and teacher. She is definitely a painting zealot, an art enabler, and a creative catalyst. She loves chai, candy-colored paint, new brushes, karaoke, and nerding out about creativity. She shares art, tutorials, and true stories about the intersection of artist + mom over at KatCanPaint.comGlorious Guest Post, Kick in the Knickers, Meaningful Mindsets