A Non-Artist’s Guide to a Masterpiece

Posted: July 25, 2012 in Art
Tags: , , , ,

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an artist. (This, of course, is in regards to the mainstream definition of the word. I think I am – and each of you are – an artist of words, but I’m not here to talk about that today.) My grandmother liked to say that she couldn’t draw a straight line if she had three rulers. I tend to agree with that sentiment. Even my stick figures never quite look right.

This is all pretty amusing once you realize that I have a B.A. in art history. But, thankfully, you don’t have to be an artist to have an appreciation of art. It’s probably best that I’m not – it allows me to bask in the talents of others, wondering how anyone can create such a realistic/haunting/beautiful/enter-adjective-here painting/sculpture/drawing.

I got through three and a half years of college perfectly content with my studies. Then, in my last semester, I was told some horrifying news. I had to take an art class. Uh oh. While I’m a fairly creative person in general, I’ve never really applied these skills to producing a physical object. Least of all one that would be graded.


Now, this art class was a bit different than your average course. I mean, I took 2D and 3D art in high school, where I did fine but didn’t excel (which didn’t bother me at all). This class, however, was called Aesthetics and it was all about the theories behind how art is created. Sometimes it was taught by my art history teacher, who focused on how it applied to our field. Sometimes it was taught by the art education professor, who focused on – you guessed it – how it applied to students who wanted to be teachers. And guess which one I got as a professor that semester?

Double crap.

You see, I never wanted to be a teacher. I’d probably be good at it. I have a fair amount of patience and I enjoy teaching other people. I’m good at breaking down complex problems, simplifying them, and then instructing others step-by-step how to understand them. Plenty of my high school teachers suggested I look into an education field, but I knew it wasn’t for me. It just wasn’t anything I wanted to do.

So this class was a little…pointless. Not only did I not particularly like this teacher (she was very nice – just a little too flaky for my analytical brain), but the entire curriculum literally had nothing at all to do with my major. So, yeah. It was a lot pointless. Unfortunately, this was a required class and was exactly the absolute last class I needed in order to graduate.

Oh, and did I mention that I had a Spanish class (required for my minor) that was in the same time slot that absolutely couldn’t be moved? That means that I had to take my aesthetics class online – where I would probably learn even less and definitely not get a chance to partake in discussions or have the benefit of asking questions during class.

(Can I insert a ‘triple crap’ here?)

Luckily, my professor really liked me. The class was super easy and I ended up getting an excellent grade, despite the fact that I never stepped foot in the class room. …Even if I did learn nothing from it. (Gotta love those standardized, cardboard cut-out requisites, right?)

But that’s a half lie. I did learn one thing: I can make art.

Yeah. Me! Who knew? I certainly didn’t.

The assignment was simple enough. We each got a shoe (my BFF brought one back for me, so half of my glory should probably go to her) that we had to turn into a piece of art. I don’t even remember what the unit was about. It might have been recycled material used for artwork. The point is we had a shoe. That we had to turn into a piece of art. A good piece of art, that is.

I mentioned it was going to be graded, right?

Now, I was lucky because I didn’t actually have to go to class. Still, I felt the pressure. Only three of the students in that class were art history majors. The rest were art ed majors. That means that they’re good at this sort of thing. After all, they wanted to do it for a living.

But you know how sometimes everything seems hopeless? You’re so overwhelmed because you just have too much going on. You have to prioritize your work. The more important stuff gets tossed on top of the heap and the less important things get the least of your attention. I learned to prioritize really well in college. I also learned that I didn’t have time to make every project my best project. I learned to be okay with that.

And sometimes – if you’re really lucky – your brain realizes how desperate and stressed you are, and it helps you out. It just gives you everything you need and you know that it’s going to work out perfectly.

This was one of those times.

I stared at the shoe for about five minutes – maybe less. And it hit me. The epiphany of my life. (I know, I know. You’re thinking, after 800+ words this had better be good. Oh, trust me. It is.)


No, no. Shoe-shi.

I was going to turn my shoe into a sushi platter. And a gorgeous platter it was going to be.

The shoe was completely white. Low heel. There was a single strap across the top that was a little thick and fairly wide. A basic, simple shoe. It would be perfect.

I cut the strap off and connected the ends so it looked like a doughnut. I colored this black with permanent marker. I stuffed the middle with cardboard, then took uncooked rice and mixed it with glue. I put the rice in both ends of the doughnut shape and then waited for it to harden.

The hard part was over. The base of the shoe was the platter. I painted – in red – Chinese symbols for “food.” Then I took two pencils, shaved them, and dipped them in white paint. I used marker again to make the ends black. These were the chopsticks. Then I wrote on a strip of paper the fortune (because what would sushi be without a fortune?). I connected the three pieces – the sushi, the chopsticks, and the fortune – to the base of the shoe and it was done.


Now, I have a secret talent that few know I possess. This talent was bred from my natural way with words. It’s called: b.s.-ing. And I’m really, really good at it.

Of course I had to write a paper for this project, so that super secret talent came in handy. I came up with some pretty fabulous theories about what the shoe-shi platter represented. I wrote about how profound it was. Where it fit amongst the stars in the cosmos. Why it was important and what it told us about human nature.

Hey, I’m not proud to admit that I gave it less than my all, but I still earned that A+ and I wasn’t about to give it back.

(As a side note, my BFF has repeatedly told me she hates this super secret talent of mine. I can’t blame her, but, man, am I glad I have it.)

If you’ve made it this far along in my story, I applaud you. Thanks for sticking around. And, as a reward, here are a couple shots of my first real (and best ever) art project. I still have it. It’s sits on my dresser in my bedroom. Every once in a while I look up at it and smile, surprised that a non-artist like me was lucky enough to find the masterpiece inside her on her first try.

Yeah, that might be a humble brag. Just a little bit.

I consider this the back of the piece, though it gives a nice overview.

Here’s the shoe-shi platter in all its glory. Believe it or not, the hardest part was keeping those stupid chopsticks attached to the base.

I’m so proud of that rice. That was going to make or break the whole piece, so I’m glad it worked out! (The chopsticks says “Foo Chow” by the way, which is the name of the Chinese restaurant in the town I live in!)

I wanted a funny saying, and this was the best one I found. My favorite numbers are 4 and 17. The BFF’s are 8 and 3. And my mom’s birthday is on 10/27.

Are you artsy in the traditional sense of the word? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever made? As a writer, do you share my super secret talent for coming up with the perfect words in the absolute least amount of time?

  1. Julie Glover says:

    Wow! You may not feel artistic, but you definitely are creative!

  2. Frank Zappa once said that ‘art’ was defined as the creative product of the mind, put in some sort of frame (itself potentially an abstraction). Quite right, too. And your Shoe-shi is seriously cool.

  3. Fabio Bueno says:

    Love the shoe-shi! I’m an admirer of good, creative ideas, and that’s definitely a great one.
    I also like that you had a secret weapon for your essay: your writing ability.
    Since you asked: I have no musical talent 🙂

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