“Wow, you’re so creative!”
I’m always flattered when someone says that to me.
And sometimes a little saddened.
Like when I hear the hints of wistfulness or envy, mixed with the certainty of one’s own lack of creativity or artistic skills.
I used to talk like that. For years I thought that creativity and artistic ability were one and the same thing. I also believed they were special gifts bestowed on fortunate individuals.
In my family, my younger brother Christian was the lucky one. As kids, I envied how he was always drawing, coloring, or just making things.
Me? I was the smart one, the “gifted” one, the book smart one.
I liked art a lot, but it seemed to come so much easier to Christian, much the way book learning was for me. So I just assumed that we all had our natural talents which defined who we were. He was the artistic one and I was the book smart one.
Except for the time when I was the First Prize Winner in a coloring contest.
When I was 10 and Christian was eight, there was a
Goodwill United Way campaign drive at my dad’s work. Part of the campaign involved a coloring contest for the employees’ kids. I remember the poster looking something like this-
Something like that.
So I colored my poster.
I don’t remember all the details, although in the original poster I did color the people. What I do remember were adding my birds to the picture.
Shortly before this contest I discovered that you could make birds just by drawing a shallow “m”. It was like this little magic drawing trick.
I don’t know if the birds were the touch that impressed the judges, but I won.
First Prize AND 10 bucks!
Recognition AND I got paid!
That’s what I’m talking about.
Meanwhile, my brother (who was in a different age bracket) received an honorable mention.
Honestly, for me, that was the weirdest part of this story. How had I managed to do better than my brother? Clearly the universe was out of balance or something, right? Maybe the kids in my brother’s age bracket were crazy talented and would have put my poster to shame. Maybe the idea of coloring a poster bored my brother, so he half-assed it. Perhaps I was the only kid in my age bracket to enter a poster, so I won my category by default.
Who the hell knows?
All I know is that it was first taste of,
“Maybe, just maybe, I AM artistic and creative.”
Too bad it would be almost 20 years before I took real action on that thought. And even then I resisted.
But more on that later…
P.S. If you’re so inclined, click here to download the uncolored version of this coloring poster. Make copies for yourself, your kids, your co-workers. Have a coloring contest at home or on a Friday afternoon at work. Get in touch with the 10-year-old in you and color your own First Place poster.
P.P.S. I’d love to see pictures.