This post contains affiliate links. Please read the disclosure on the front page for more details.
I am ridiculously proud of myself. I learned a new skill, and used that skill to accomplish something that I thought I was incapable of doing. Sounds really awesome and difficult, right? Not really: I made art coloring bookmarks for the Engineer.
I am a gifted adult. I’ve learned to deal with the whole this-is-too-hard-I-give-up syndrome, but facing difficult challenges isn’t exactly fun for me. I’m a recovering perfectionist too which doesn’t help.
To understand just how significant this was for me, you have to go way back to my college days.
The Graphic Design Fiasco:
My gifted self was determined to power through college as quickly as possible and not waste money. Which, considering that my initial major was a minimum 6-year deal, sounded impossible. My college deliberately scheduled required classes in a specific order that mandated a better tuition stream for them – including four required consecutive photography courses that were only offered once per year.
I considered my options and changed my major to a BA in art and journalism, instead of a BFA in photography.
Along the way, I had a multitude of art credits that I needed to acquire and only a few photography classes to pull from. So I decided to try graphic design on a whim. It might be useful, right?
That was one of the most challenging things I have ever done, even worse than the macro economic course I took as a freshman. Why so? Because the intro course I took wasn’t truly an intro course.
Graphic designers need to know a graphic design program to work effectively. That meant Adobe Illustrator. I assumed that I would learn how to use Illustrator in the course, just like I learned how to develop film in the intro to photography course. Wrong!
The instructor assumed that everyone already knew how to use Illustrator. Our first assignment was a logo. Due the next week. I was the oldest student in the class, and the only one who had no idea what I was doing. I considered dropping out but that felt like quitting. And I had already paid. Not getting your money back is a powerful motivator.
I dove in. We bought Illustrator so that I could work at home. I learned to accomplish things the hard way, and it took me hours or days to do things the other students could do in a few minutes. I managed. And I did well enough that I ended up taking a second graphic design course as well: something that only graphic design majors did.
Of all the things that I learned in college, Adobe Illustrator is the one that I use the most in my homeschooling projects.
Because of how I learned (immersion and by-the-seat-of-my-pants) there are large gaps in my knowledge that hinder me. I still can’t do supposedly “easy” things because I don’t know the right keyboard command or I can’t control the functions the way the not-helpful Help tab spells out.
I finally got fed up. I decided that no matter what else I accomplished that night, I was going to learn how to divide a vector object correctly. And I did! I found the right magic function and performed it correctly, and voila! I split the shape into sections without messing it up. I did it!
With the technical difficulties resolved, I dove right in to the project that the Engineer had requested: coloring bookmarks with his favorite artwork.
You have to understand: I can’t draw. I passed my college drawing courses through sheer effort, because I just can’t do it. I can tell when proportions are off and I get incredibly frustrated when I can see it but not draw it. I have the eye – not the ability. Bleh! So copying art from the masters is like torture. Impossible!
Worse, this needed to be line art. Reducing famous art to lines is an impossible task for me, the proportion-challenged artist. I spent many nights glued to a close-up screen carefully drawing the correct curves with a mouse. One bookmark at a time, I got through 8 different famous pieces of art.
I’m so proud of this project.
And the Engineer was over the moon. I left the last batch for him to find the next morning, along with the colored pencils and accompanying art photographs. He especially loves the Great Wave Off Kanagawa (Hokusai.)
While I did this project for the Engineer, I was the one who benefited most from it. I learned that I can accomplish more than I thought was possible if I try hard enough and push myself beyond my comfort zone. It’s a victory – an accomplishment, even if a minor one. And that’s a great lesson for me to demonstrate to my kids, who often quit because things are too hard. Keep trying kiddos, and you too can do something impossible.
“Art does not reproduce what we see; rather, it makes us see.” Paul Klee