Art and the Garden, Part I: Early Mishaps in Art

This week Garden Designers’ Roundtable is posting about Art and Sculpture in the Garden.  Even though I signed up to post this month, I have to confess that art and sculpture intimidate me a little, in the garden and everywhere else.  In fact, you might say that I am uniquely disqualified to give advice about art.  To preface my GDRT post, I thought I’d share a story about my early experience in art to show what I mean. 

As a kid, like most kids, I had fun with art.  I liked coloring with crayons, making papier mache masks, creating construction paper mosaics.  I wasn’t particularly talented, but I reveled in the creative aspects of art, and loved all the fun materials. 

I’m sad to say that it was a middle school art class that drove the joy for art right out of me.  During the ceramics unit for that class, I created this clay beaver:

Yes, I’ve kept it all these years.

The greenish glaze you see on the beaver was a source of contention between me and my art teacher, Mrs. Hill.  I had wanted to to glaze him brown (BECAUSE BEAVERS ARE BROWN) but Mrs. Hill told me that glazing him brown would be banal and conventional. “Art should always surprise!” she said.  So after conceding to the green glaze, I was “surprised” to see that, when the beaver came out of the kiln, it looked like it just crawled out of a slimy retention pond. 

Somebody really needed to teach Mrs. Hill a more important tenet: “There is no always in art.” 

Or even better: “Stop using the word banal!”

Anyway, I dropped out of the art scene after 8th grade, figuring I wasn’t good enough to keep pursuing it.  Clearly my artistic ideas were puerile, pedestrian, and bourgeois!  Luckily, I found more encouragement and validation in the realms of music and writing, so those pursuits fed my creative impulses throughout my adolescence.

Fast forward, um, several years and my relationship with art began its long, slow thaw. 

And it was really the study of landscape design that began to warm things up again. 

Tune in tomorrow and I will explain how!

16 thoughts on “Art and the Garden, Part I: Early Mishaps in Art

  1. I’m eager to find out how the thaw happened. Personally, I have a 30 minute/8 item rule when it comes to art museums. That is, I really need to leave after 30 minutes or having looked at 8 items or art, whichever comes first. Physically, of course, I can stay longer, but mentally I begin to drift far away.

    I’m not proud of this, but there it is. I do like art objects in the garden to a certain extent, but I guess you could say my taste is pretty banal: concrete chickens, dragonflies made out of old wrenches, flowers of stained glass. Anything more abstract causes my mind to start wandering. So seriously, any tips for appreciating more advanced stuff would be greatly appreciated.

    • My garden art is similar to yours, except I went wild and installed three ceramic fish this past spring.

      Your art museum rule is funny. I feel the same with most museums…there is just so much stuff to look at, it is overwhelming. Very lucky to live close to DC where we can just pop in to great museums to see one or two exhibits.

  2. Interesting post – everyone is qualified to comment on art. It’s quite sad to hear of art teachers destroying the joy of creating art in kids – i teach art – and my objective is always to inspire and encourage my students. Incidentally I have started a blog called which features artists and their gardens – and the relationship artists have with their gardens. So if you want to see how the artists on the other side of the fence live – check out this weeks blog post about artist Elizabeth Murray who wrote the book Monets Passion. I have featured 5 videos of Elizabeths home and garden and art. Hope you enjoy it.

  3. I wrote out some remarks about your beaver and then hit the backspace button because, well, there are those people out there that might take them the wrong way. Here’s the safe response: I think you do indeed have some artistic talent. I can’t wait to see what you’ve come up with.

    • Kylee, I proofread my post for punctuation, grammar, and awkward “beaver” phrases, but then I decided heck with it. I really don’t think I have any special artistic talent, but I have been willing to practice (this will be the theme of my next post).

      • Well, I just couldn’t post “I think your beaver is exquisite. Er…I like your beaver a lot.” Right? Well, anyway, that’s why you kept it all these years! To remind you that you have unfinished business. Glad to see your inner artist is coming out again!

  4. So many art teachers are terribly opinionated. Due to past experiences I still feel paralyzed anytime I attempt to use that side of my brain! It can sometimes take years to get over it. Glad to hear you are moving forward. I hope I can someday too!

      • Hi Mary, I haven’t, just read your post about it. Looks like our local library has it, woo hoo! Can’t wait to read it. Thanks for the recommendation. I didn’t realize you were a school teacher, wow. AND you find time to write such wonderful blog posts. You really inspire me! Oh, and p.s., I think Picasso would have rapped her knuckles with your beaver sculpture, LOL.

  5. Pingback: Art and the Garden, Part II: Learning to See –

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