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Sense & Nonsense: Take that paintbrush and keep it — away from me, please

July 26, 2012

Long ago it was established that I can't draw.
This has been officially noted at the high school, college and later-in-life levels.
Even before reaching these plateaus, I essentially failed cut-paste-and-color at the elementary level, but it was a kinder, gentler school system then and no one went on record with the crushing evaluation.
Years later I thought of this as I watched Gayla McCoy doodling in a meeting and was nothing short of amazed. She was drawing a pair of fish that could have been straight out of a Disney film strip. They actually looked like talking fish.
I can't draw even when I doodle. I either write the names of people who are talking around me or my own name about a hundred times in slightly different styles. (A psychiatrist would have a field day with that.) Then sometimes I try to draw clothing as if I were a fashion designer. (Please don't laugh out loud.)
Bottom line, I can't draw. My dress "designs" would never make it to Seventh Avenue.
They'd laugh me off Edison Avenue.
Whenever I bemoan my lack of artistic ability, there's usually someone around who thinks I'm downplaying my capability, or rather the lack of it. Invariably, someone will say something like, "Oh, you could draw if you'd just do it. You could learn."
Wrong. History speaks for itself.
I would have had a failing grade in the singular college art class I had to take if it hadn't been only a third of an art-architecture-music survey course. I sailed through the music portion; that was as easy as breathing for me. And I found the architecture segment interesting enough that I could memorize all the information and distinguish between colonial and contemporary structures. Thankfully, we didn't have to do so much as hammer a nail, which was good, because a builder I will never be.
But the art segment was BAD. I barely passed. And for someone accustomed to making near-perfect grades, it was a big blow to the ego.
When I acknowledge that I can't draw a straight line, I'm usually told this is not a serious flaw.
"No one else can, either," disgustingly gifted artist Alma Joyce Hahn once told me.
Technically, this may be so, but my attempts at straight-lining are much worse than those of most others — so much so that it puts the process into a whole other challenge.
My late cousin, Paula, who was my speech/drama teacher in high school, saved my India ink box-set drawings for years. This wasn't because she thought they were good or even interesting. She kept them as an example for how NOT to do them.
They weren't just bad — they were ludicrous. People would look at them and immediately burst out laughing. Paula enjoyed displaying them and, in her own inimitable way, telling about me and the mess I made on that project.
For anyone inexperienced with India ink, let me tell you that there's nothing like trying to get it off your clothing and person. The stuff is meant to stay. And like I do with paint, I spread it on everything — hands, face, anything not covered.
In the early grades, I excelled at mixing colors and turning them into really pretty hues, but coloring the pictures we were given was another matter. I couldn't stay within the lines on any page I was supposed to color.
Later on when I had children, it quickly became apparent that the kids were better at coloring than I was. My daughter still likes to point this out and did so when her children were little and they wanted their Mimi to "color" with them.
"You've got to know that she can't stay within the lines," said the first-grade teacher who finds my efforts hilarious.
A theater enthusiast, I've been involved with the Royal Players since the group organized in 1994. I'm happy as can be when performing with that group or doing just about any offstage task — with one notable exception: I don't work on sets.
When we were involved in the production of "Inherit the Wind" several years back, Sandra Partridge was spearheading the set work and enlisted the aid of people to paint flats and sundry pieces.
When I demurred, she sternly told me that "anyone can paint a board, Lynda."
Feeling that I was shirking work that needed to be done, I showed up for duty and took brush in hand. About 30 minutes into the job, Sandra walked over to me, shook her head, clicked her tongue and said, "You really can't paint, Lynda."
You try to tell people these things, but no one listens ...
It's probably not surprising that I don't do crafts or any kind of handiwork. Brushes, hammers and needles are the tools of others, never mine.
A related function that I leave alone is gift-wrapping. When I wrap a present, it's readily apparent that I'm the one who did it. It might as well be marked with a neon sign.
My daughter, who honed her natural gift-wrapping skills as a teenage holiday worker at Gingles Department Store and Cherry's Hallmark, has picked up many things that I've wrapped and immediately snickers. "We don't have to ask who wrapped this one. It's obvious it was Mother."
It's good thing that I'm not sensitive.
Gift sacks were made for folks like me. They have helped me turn would-be creative fiascos into acceptable offerings.
But one thing is certain: When it's a present for the grandchildren, they don't care how it looks on the outside anyway.
All they want is what's under the cover. And if it's green and spends, they couldn't be happier.

Lynda Hollenbeck is senior editor of the Courier.
lyndahol@yahoo.com

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