Paint, draw, sew, write or sing, even if you suck at it

I spent years gleaning over knitting patterns and tutorials on how to make the perfect cable and select the perfect yarn before I mustered up enough courage to try the actually knitting. I wasn’t even sure the patterns were written in English and would slap them down on my coffee table, feeling defeated as I let my tangled mess of yarn fall to my feet. I was not born with the artsy gene like my sisters were. They came into this world knowing how to sew, felt and sketch. I did not.

My roommate in college majored in art and could paint, sketch, decorate and arrange flowers that were drool-worthy. Everything she touched turned to gold. Meanwhile, everything I touched turned into a dilapidated mess. Comparing myself to others solidified my belief I just wasn’t born to make beautiful thing, but the urge never left me.

And so, after a mini lesson from my sister about nine years ago, I got the hang of knitting and purling.  Along with my (very average) skill came fantasies of me walking down the street sporting my stylish creations as women stopped me, demanding to know where I purchased my chunky cabled scarf and matching fingerless gloves.  I would burst with pride as I told them I had made them MYSELF! It would be a delight to watch their face turn from anxious curiosity to disbelief. I would reassure them that if I could do it (after many failed attempts) so could they. Of course I would leave out the part about how it might not feel natural and there may be some tantruming and feeling as though they were not put on this earth to create art, because that would just be too discouraging.

The same thing happened while fawning over abstract art in a gallery about five years ago. I saw some beautiful pieces in all mediums—colors swirling on canvases—and I was compelled to try it. Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing at the time, but the urge to plop paint down on a canvas and see where the brush wanted to go became my favorite way to relax. My house is now covered in my own art.

I’ve also written a few knitting patterns, and yes, people occasionally stop me to ask where I got my scarf or hat. While their compliments bring me pleasure and validation, it isn’t even my favorite part of creating.

What I have learned is that we all have artistic talents; it is not something we are born with or not. Paint, draw, sew, write or sing—even if you suck. Because like anything else, the more you do it, the better you become with practice and persistence. But more importantly, if it brings you joy to sit and put a pencil to paper, or to spin yarn into gifts, the end product  is going to be something beautiful.

Don’t think just because you never took art classes in college, or have never taken a decent picture to save your life, you can’t learn. Especially today, with all the wonderful videos and tutorials on social media, you can sit in the privacy of your own home without feeling like you are letting the world know how inartistic you are. Take it, do it, learn it. Life-enrichment is more about creating memories and self-discovery than it is about perfecting a craft, and for me, that has been the most meaningful part of embracing my inner artist.

Sometimes the best things in life happen when we reach out of our comfort zones. It can be scary to feel vulnerable, like we are setting ourselves up for failure, but you never know what is going to stick (and possibly change your life). We need to drop the thought, “I don’t know how, so I won’t,” and instead focus on all we are getting out of the experience by simply trying. When we dare to do something new and different we are opening ourselves up to a whole new world, new people and new experiences.

Dive in and get your hands dirty, put your ego aside and just have fun. Do it solo or with a friend, but don’t think just because you have never done it before you can’t create a masterpiece. Let yourself go, don’t try too hard, the art will make itself, and that is when the magic happens.

WAYS TO EXERCISE YOUR INNER ARTIST:

Port Fiber, located on 50 Cove St. in Portland offers classes from felting to weaving. Check portfiber.com for classes and events.

Muse Paint Bar, located on 245 Commercial St. in Portland is a great place to let loose with a few friends and try your hand at painting while enjoying a glass (or two) of wine. Check musepaintbar.com for classes and events.

The Black Tie Company, at One Union Wharf in Portland, offers small, hands-on cooking classes in the professional kitchen, taught by world class chefs and guest professionals. Check theblacktieco.com for classes.

If you have been dying to try dancing, Casco Bay Movers, located at 517 Forest Ave. in Portland, offers dance lessons for adults. Check cascobaymovers.com for the schedule.

Katie Bingham-Smith is a freelance writer, shoe addict and mother to three living in the woods of Bowdoinham. She pays her kids to rub her feet and never turns down anything with caffeine.

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