#12: Painting a canvas

Posted by Megan on June 22nd, 2011

My mother used to always say that I was “well rounded.” This is mom-talk for “you’re not really super great at anything.” She was right, I was pretty mediocre at nearly every task I tried. I got decent grades, I could sort of sing, I was an okay hugger, but one thing I was always desperately bad at was art. Once in sixth grade we had a particularly challenging art project that required us to make paper mache birds. My bird turned out to be handicapped. It stood crooked, one of its wings fell off and the paint job made it look like an oil spill casualty. If I were to make that bird as an adult, I would simply conjure a story about how the bird represents the destruction of the natural world. The bird would serve as a statement on how humans devalue the existence of creatures that rightfully should be protected from the selfish destruction of humankind. Unfortunately my BS-ing skills had not yet developed so my reaction to the sad decrepit bird was pure unbridled hatred. I was so disappointed and annoyed that I couldn’t make a beautifully proportionate and healthy looking bird like some of my classmates that I threw the stupid thing in the lake on my walk home from school. I hadn’t planned for it to float (why I didn’t realize this is beyond me, all birds can swim – DUH!). It got trapped in a little bay and every day for weeks when I walked home I could see it bobbing and sloshing around in the dirty water. It was a constant reminder of my terrible artistic skills.  To this day I still avoid any task that requires any artistic ability. I can’t even draw a stick dog. I’ve tried dozens of times. They always turn out looking like a bench with a tongue. Sadly I haven’t found a need to draw a bench with a tongue for I certainly have that hieroglyphic covered.

 Have you ever noticed there is no such thing as an average artist? Either people have the gift or they don’t. As described above, I am one of the 90 percent of people who are  inept. I think this actually works out perfectly though. Art wouldn’t be nearly as inspirational and awe inspiring if everyone could do it. It’s like juggling, if everyone could do it – it wouldn’t be cool!

While I’m terrible at art, I’m decent at its more easygoing and forgiving cousin: crafts. I make cards from time to time and have even dabbled in scrapbooking a bit. This has helped me build back my confidence in artistic endeavors so when my friend Becky suggested we paint canvases at ARTichokes. I thought I could perhaps use my crafting skills to create something that was at least presentable. ARTichokes is a storefront art Mecca in Kansas City. Several galleries display local artists’  masterpieces and every Friday they host open painting. Becky, her friend Katie and I arrived with no expectations. When we walked in, I knew we were going to have a fantastic experience. The crowd was eclectic; very warm and welcoming. A group of teenagers mingled in the main entrance area, while older couples and hipsters gathered around a local musician who was serenading the crowd with a very diverse set list that ranged from Jason Mraz, to the Beatles, to Garth Brooks.

Walking into the cultured, hip environment was like walking into Munchkin Land. It was like we were not in Kansas anymore! It was full of vibrant color. As to not confuse metaphors, I’d like to point out there were no little people involved.


Katie selects her colors.

The owner greeted us and expressed her excitement, “I’m so glad you’re here!” Perhaps she gives this standard greeting to everyone who walks in the door, but it felt authentic and honest. For $10 we received a canvas and paint.  We grabbed a glass of local wine to help fuel our creativity and were set free on our journey to create the next masterpiece. There were several children painting Father’s Day gifts and a few other adults painting moderately advanced landscapes and still lifes. The featured artist, William Rose, was onsite painting an absolutely breathtaking portrait. I’d never seen an artist at work before. It was fascinating to watch him make hundreds of calculated and precise brush strokes.

Featured artist William Rose painted a beautiful portrait.

I was feeling fairly confident I could create a frame-worthy modern art piece. To me, modern art often resembles finger painting, so I should be good to go. After loading up my color palette with bright colors, I decided to just start painting and see what happened. I drew a long vein in green.

I probably should have stopped painting while I was ahead. A blank canvas could be interpreted as a statement on how American art is dying or some crap.


Where to go from here... leaf? landscape? blob monster?


I realized almost instantaneously that I should have never written off modern art as easy. Apparently creating the texture and complexity I was looking for took talent, skills and practice. I had none. I quickly reevaluated my abilities and decided my only course was to create a very simple, very bold colorscape. Are you curious as to what a colorscape is? You should be, I just made it up.

Becky and Katie search for inspiration while I down my creative juice. (aka cabernet)


I’m heavy handed in all areas of life including pouring wine, playing Operation and most certainly with art projects. When I color, I always break the crayons. This became painfully apparent when I glopped on layer after layer of acrylic paint to the canvas. There was no finesse whatsoever. My painting was loud, bright, bold and brash. Interestingly these are adjectives that are often used to describe my personality. This method could probably be used to describe how Becky’s painting relates to her personality also: thoughtful, cultured and weird. 

Becky’s painting was named “Post nuclear war.”

I was the last to complete my painting, most likely because there were about four paintings worth of paint overwhelming the canvas. I am satisfied with the outcome although it certainly is not frame-worthy. A fourth grader could easily replicate it in about 15 minutes, but nevertheless I withheld the urge to make it overly complicated. Simply by not looking like turd, I’ll consider it a win.

All three final masterpieces.




My final painting. I think I might be holding it upside down. I can’t decide yet.


I adored the experience. The energy was warm, welcoming and accepting. It was a gathering of people who like art, but not in a snobby way – in a genuine loving way. The owners were clearly passionate about sharing art with anyone who was interested from experienced painters to blob makers. A visit to ARTichokes will definitely be on my itinerary for my next trip to Kansas City.

  • © 2011 Megan Steil