Sticks and stones may break my bones, but hammers give me a blood blister…

I am happy to say that this is not my fault!

I am happy to say that this is not my fault!

This semester, I’m taking two similar yet different art class: Design II (which is really 3D design) and Jewelry & Metal Arts. They’re similar because they’re super hands-on. I’m constantly doing and making things. I’m carrying a tool box with all my gear because I need it – I only have a single sketch pad, and while I’m using it, it’s just for sketches before I get to the actual making part.

In the design class, it’s been strange, too, because it’s not the only class the teacher is in charge of. He actually has three classes going at once: my design class (I’m the only student in it), Sculpture I (with three students in it), and Sculpture II (with three different students in it). So he has seven students spread over the three classes. It means there’s a lot of running back and forth on his part, and he starts and supervises, but, by and large, I get a lot of straight out work time where I can get things done.

To make the design class even stranger, the teacher was one of my students almost 10 years ago when I was teaching English. He’s from another country, and he had to take some developmental English classes when he first came here. I taught him English, and while I didn’t remember him, he remembered me. The swap to being his student isn’t as odd as I thought it would be, probably because we are both adults and, at least on my part, I always feel like there is something to learn from another person. Maybe English isn’t his greatest skill. 3D design is not my greatest skill, either. I’m open to having someone teach me their skills, regardless of whether or not I taught them.

My first project - a simple pendant with a butt joint, a sweat joint, and a t-joint.

My first project – a simple pendant with a butt joint, a sweat joint, and a t-joint.

My other class, the jewelry and metal arts one, is not at all what I expected. I had images of working with wire, twisting jump rings, maybe some basic soldering. Nope. It all started with cutting metal into a necklace and then learning three solder joints (with a torch! a big, fire-tipped torch!!). We got to sand blast it. We got to put a patina on it. It was crazy fun, and I have no idea what our next project is, but it looks like we’ll be starting it soon…

Okay, now to get to the part I know you were waiting for. The blood blister.

Well, my design class, while it’s fun, it’s also apparently hazardous for people like me who are always able to find a way to accidentally hurt themselves. I should be famous for the number of paper cuts I have managed to give myself, especially with corrugated cardboard. (For those who have never had the pleasure of a corrugated cardboard paper cut, let me assure you – you don’t want to!)

I was working on my wire sculpture of a horse’s head (named, appropriately, Fish No. 1), and some of the wire was not quite straight. The instructor, not knowing that I am that amazingly clumsy, went ahead and gave me a huge hard-rubber mallet so that I could straighten it out.

The eye of the horse in the wire sculpture.  I'm sure it's obvious what it is, right?

The eye of the horse in the wire sculpture. I’m sure it’s obvious what it is, right?

I put the sculpture on the floor, saw where it needed straightening, and then brought the mallet down on the tip of my thumb bruisingly hard. Like it immediately started turning colors and swelling…and a big ‘ole blood blister formed. I swear, I’m not bad with pain – anyone who gets as many paper cuts as me knows to just curse and move along. But this was so bad and so painful that I literally almost fainted. I felt myself go light-headed. It hurt that much. Ouch. So much ouch. All in one little finger.

I put ice on it, but I couldn’t really do much else for the rest of the class, and as I was eating lunch, it was getting worse instead of better, so my husband was kind enough to drive me to an urgent care clinic that decided so go ahead and do x-rays. It wasn’t fractured, but they told me to keep icing it and take a bunch of Advil, and they warned me that the blood blister might wind up under the fingernail, and if it got too big, I should go ahead and go see a doctor so they could STICK A POINTY THING IN IT AND MAKE IT BLEED. Suffice it to say, I didn’t like that idea, and I’m happy to say that didn’t happen. My finger is mostly better, other than the blood blister still hanging around, but I’m hoping it will start going away soon.


Week Two Done and Moving On!

drawing of black on white design piece

drawing of black on white design piece

Hard to believe I’m done with week two of my classes and firmly into week three already. Time flies and all that jazz, I suppose.

Right now, I have to say that my design class is my favorite class. I think that’s probably because I can see the most relevance from it right now. I have been doing the reading and then applying it to what I do in the class (and what I look at). It seems logical – it follows a path like the ones I learned when studying English. You read the rules, you look at work that follows the rules (or breaks the rules), and then you practice it. Once you know the rules and can follow them, then you can break them, too. The similarity to writing is kind of stunning, and perhaps that’s why it makes so much sense to me, and why I enjoy it. I also find it being immediately practical: I even learned what I used while talking to a friend about her own project. Knowing the rules of composition – another similarity, the language! – means that I can look at object and consider how to put them together. Hopefully that’s something that will be evident in my jewelry and book-making ventures.

My drawing class, on the other hand, was definitely becoming a drag. But not. We spent the first two weeks doing contour drawing. Lots of them. My hands. Various objects, including a shoe and a hat. And let me tell you something – I’m not very good at them. I know that they’re important, but I really wish that the instructor explained *why* they were important. That’s not to say that I’m not working on them with intensity. I have begun a small sketchbook, and I create a sketch in it every day. Most of them are contour drawings. And here’s the thing – they get better. Seriously. I can see by looking at them. The lines are making sense now. Sure, they still aren’t good, but they are better.

Here’s the thing about my current classes: they are meant for beginners. Which is okay. I am a beginner. A total beginner. I know that, and I accept that I need to start from that point if I have any hope of learning. But it’s still frustrating to have to do the same thing over and over again.

I was lamenting this fact – the repetition and monotony of it – to my husband, and he reminded me that this was no different than learning anything else. He remembered how, oh so many years ago, when he was learning to play guitar, he had to practice scales and stupid “musical” pieces. I say “musical” because they weren’t really much in terms of music. They were just meant to get you used to moving your fingers in certain progressions. He talked about how boring it was to do that, how much he hated it, and how much he had to do it. And then, one day, it clicked, and suddenly he could move without even thinking about it. And I remembered when I learned violin, back in the second grade. We did the same thing in our class – learning to play whole notes was potentially the most boring thing I’d ever done. But I did it, and learning to do it was an important part of learning the skill.

So, hopefully, I’m going to come out of this “boring” time with the skills I need to get to the fun stuff. And hopefully it’ll be soon, too.

Oh my God, I’m an undergrad again!

Image by StockImages via

Image by StockImages via

It happens on Monday, although I suppose technically since I’ve already made the first payment on my tuition, it’s really that I’m already an undergrad.

It’s kind of freaky – I have just a few degrees already to my name, and I haven’t attended a community college for over 10 years. (Although I taught at them for over 10 years…) I’m about to turn 39. And I have very little skill at my chosen major: art.

So why am I doing it?

Well, number one – student loans are evil things. They are money that you expect to somehow, some way, some day have the ability to pay back. Yet even if you have plenty of degrees, the jobs aren’t always there, and if they are there, they are often not what you want to do. And the student loans are also evil because they keep you in school, they get you addicted to liking school, to liking getting an education. Then – wham! Suddenly you’re all done with the degree and then you get these letters in the mail and realize that you have to pay more money in a month than you make on a car payment. And that you don’t have that money.

That’s definitely part of it. But the other part of it – number two, let’s call it – is the more important one. That’s the one that says that I do want education to be fun.

I’m not saying I haven’t enjoyed all of my degrees to some extent, but I’ve always been super worried about what I could/would do with them. Super worried about what my grades were. Super worried about all the work I’d be having to do.

This degree, though, doesn’t have that stress attached to it. Yes, I want to do well at it because I like doing well at things. But I also want to do well because I enjoy it. I like art. I’m not very good at it, although I try, and I’m hoping that taking actual art classes will help with it.

I’m also going in with no plans of what I will do with it in the future. Maybe I’ll love it, get semi-talented through practice, and wind up working with kids, doing some sort of art therapy. Maybe I’ll wind up offering free classes at nursing homes. Maybe I’ll just be able to design better cross stitch patterns and better jewelry and 3d art. Who knows?

The thing is, I’m going into this with a completely open mind, and hopefully my brain will get full of art stuffs.