Thursday, September 21, 2006

Poster Board Perfection

I am artistically challenged. I can’t even draw a straight line. How does anyone draw a straight line without using a ruler to connect two marked points? Do they just visualize two points on their paper, and whoosh, the line is perfectly formed? I bet those kind of people can eyeball perfect circles too. They probably look at those templates printed in teacher’s lesson books and draw free hand enlargements of the printed pattern. How else do they do it? I look at those patterns and have absolutely no clue of how to move them from the lesson book to my poster board.

I could blame my artistic ineptitude on my poor vision, but I’d rather sound like those people who claim a lack of giftedness for why they don’t join the choir or speak in public. Nearer the truth is a lack of experience and exposure to art skills. I’ll be honest. I have a mental block. I’m just certain I can’t. For years, I avoided art projects like packaged spinach infected with e-coli. But sometimes, the higher goal of teaching insists that I look my inability in the face and do it anyway.

This past week, I was to teach my preschoolers how God created the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day of creation. My lesson book told me to cut out a large circle from yellow poster board that would represent the sun in a game we were to play. The eyes of an artistically gifted person would probably light up as she exclaims, “No problem!” and whips out her trusty-dusty scissors to cut a perfectly formed circle without so much as a single drawn line. Me? Not a chance.

“How do I cut out a big circle?” I asked my family. My equally inartistic daughter whose negligent mother failed to teach her the finer art of art, suggested I use a round dinner platter as a guide. “Too small,” I answered. “Use a string and pencil,” my husband called from the other room. That sounds strange, I thought. Ignoring him, I said, “The trash can lid would be the right size but it’s dirty and would get my poster messy.” “String and pencil with a straight pin to hold it down,” my husband expanded. “What about my big Tupperware lid? No still too small.” “String and pencil,” my ever patient husband repeated. Curiosity made me cave. “Okay, how do you use a string and pencil to draw a circle?”

His explanation left me more confused. Where do we keep a ball of string? How would I find the center of the poster board? And how do you keep the string equally taut an you maneuver the pencil to draw the circle? This was sounding too complicated!

“I know!” I said. I went to our sun porch, returning with the round wicker footstool in hand. I turned it upside down on the poster. Perfect size! But as I drew my circle, I realized I forgot one thing. The edge of the footstool wasn’t straight; it was scalloped. My circle was a series of ragged squiggles. I cut through the squiggles, facing my artistic failure once again.

Then reality set in. What was the purpose for this circle anyway? It was for a game, a game that would last all of five minutes. When I led the game, the children hardly looked at my big yellow sun-circle. much less noticed the ragged edges. They were having too hard of a time trying to figure out how to walk in a circle! After the game, my squiggled, imperfect sun, needed just for that five minute game, found a home under the round trash can lid.

Sometimes, the pursuit of perfection isn’t worth our time and effort. In fact, trying to be perfect can actually derail us from our main goal. My purpose was to teach the children that God made our world just right. We need the sun during the day for our daily activities and we need night time so we have a chance to rest. In pursuing perfection, I would have focused more on how to make a perfect circle than contemplating how God perfectly orchestrated our world – just for us. Instead of expending so much effort on how to draw a circle for a temporary object lesson, I needed to focus on how to perfect my communication of this awesome truth to my preschoolers.

“Besides, Mom,” my daughter reminded me. “The real sun isn’t perfectly round anyway.”


Nancy said...

This post helped me so much! As a talent impaired artist, I really needed to hear your story.
"the finer art of art" I love it.

Crystal said...

I almost went into an art major at the insistence of my art teacher in HS. But I can tell you that the best art doesn't happen in perfection--that's for engineers and architects. Art is creativity--and you have that by the score!