Always be a beginner…

“If the Angel deigns to come, it will be because you have convinced her, not by tears but by your humble resolve to be always beginning: to be a beginner.”     RILKE

I am a Quitter and therefore always a Beginner.  I’ve taken precisely three art classes in my life and have promptly quit all three. The first was in the 7th grade.  I was only 13 at the time; sure I was no artist, but still wanting to do something artistic and creative.  The 1st week was kindergarten style projects; potato printing and such.  My highly sophisticated 13 old self was put off by what I saw as laziness on the part of the teacher.  Finally in the 2nd week, we were given a real assignment.  We were shown how to draw mountains and a river receding into the distance.  I think we used water colors.  The instructor asked us to basically duplicate her drawing, but to be creative!  Mine came back the next day with a near failing grade of ‘D’.  I became righteously angry and immediately transferred out of the class.

My second stab at an art class was at a community college, also a dismal failure.    On the very 1st day, the instructor said it was his goal to get a third of the class to drop out in one week.  Apparently he was bent out of shape at the class size and the overbooking of classes by the administration.  (I should have dropped out on the first day).  He ran the class like a drill sergeant.  I thought it was a beginning art class, but he threw advanced perspective concepts and assignments at us the very first week, until one day during a timed drawing exercise I realized I had no clue what the hell he was talking about.  I started to cry and quit that week along with about a third of the class. Mission accomplished Mr. Art Instructor!

My 3rd attempt was about 25 years later.  I had been experimenting with colored pencils on my own and thought to take an informal evening art class.  I had always drawn on black paper as I loved the way it created a ground that made the colors pop.  But in the very first class the instructor informed me that using black paper was cheating.  I asked why, did not get a satisfactory answer and so quit.

By now you are saying I’m a big fat quitter and you are right.  However, I don’t buy shoes that don’t fit.  Just because someone tells you they should fit does not mean they actually do.  Besides, I like to go barefoot.   i-quit

I am a self-taught artist and have come to terms with the limitations AND with the opportunities that brings. What I enjoy most about art is the process of discovery, and although classes would hone my technical skills, it would at the same time kill the spirit of exploration and the delight of discovery that I cherish.

For those of you like me who resent the yoke of convention, or who are trying to regain the childlike spirit of play in their art, I invite you to forget the training, put down the books, silence the critical voices within and without and simply find out what’s next!

2 thoughts on “Always be a beginner…”

  1. Carolyn, It sounds like we have had the same experience with art classes, except that I have been foolish enough to have enrolled in probably a dozen art classes all of which I have dropped. Evidently, I am a very slow learner or an eternal optimist, thinking that despite my past experiences the next time will be different. Nah Your teacher that wanted half the class to quit reminds me of a teacher my wife Connie had that told the class on the first day that they should forget about being an artist, as it was nearly impossible to succeed. I assume he was failing himself as he himself defined failure. That is the problem with buying into a societal notion of success. From the opposite side of reality, I was just reading a diary of a young girl who died from cancer at 16, who loved to create art so she could give it away with love. She rightly considered herself a great success. People loved her gifts of art and were warmed by her giving, generous nature. Now that’s success.


    1. Thank you Michael! As long as our society’s notion of success is tied to money, so will our society be distorted and lacking in values that truly sustain. I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one that can’t handle art classes!


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