Getting Crafty: Not So Terrible After All

As a particularly curious, creative student of the world, I’m always on the hunt for another artistic challenge.

Visual art is an area of the artistic world which I have only appreciated, as my lack of ability to translate what is in my head onto paper/canvas/etc. goes back to the days of elementary school. I can still recall the fateful day in first grade when I tried to illustrate the book I had written about Alli the Alligator. Unfortunately, I was not quite able to give breath on the page to the Alli I saw in my head. Instead, the alligator looked like a lump with bug eyes and a serrated jaw. Seeing that I was on the verge of tearing my book to shreds and never picking up a crayon again, my teacher, Mrs. Hagadon, suggested I change the story to a character I may be able to more accurately depict. Thus, Slimy the Worm was born.

I haven’t been able to draw much more than a worm since.

Likewise, my painting skills and crafting skills need a bit of refining. So when I came across a particular DIY craft on one of my favorite design blogs, DesignSpongeOnline, I bookmarked it and decided it was going to be my “visual arts” challenge for early 2011. The challenge? Create a chalkboard globe.

One day at the Pasadena Flea Market yielded an intact, but geographically incorrect globe — the beginning of my foray into crafty artistic expression. A search for cheap chalkboard paint (because who really wants to spend $20 on one color of paint?) led me to, and before I knew it the paint, the globe and the paintbrushes sat at my feet, ready to spring into action.

I set a few hours aside on Saturday, and this is what I came up with…I consider these “steps” to be more like “phases,” as each phase brought about a new challenge, frustration, discovery and eventually, victory.

Phase 1: The proper tools for my creative, crafty undertaking included…
…two shades of chalkboard paint
…acrylic paint to outline the continents
…newspaper to protect the table
…an out-of-date globe
…and of course, tea.
(Not pictured: iTunes playing Sara Bareilles’ “Kaleidoscope Heart,” Radiohead’s “King of Limbs,” and my “belt-it-out” fallback, Over the Rhine’s “Ohio“)

Phase 2: Begin. Cover the ocean in black, which clearly is going to need more than one coat (it took three). Say goodbye to the tiny little islands that I will not ever be able to paint around or outline (Sorry, Greece!)

Phase 3: Let the three coats of black “ocean” dry. Skype with my parents in China.

Phase 4: Cover the continents/land in green. Marvel at how difficult it really is to paint on a globe, fight through the urge to just paint the entire globe black. (I am determined to NOT “Slimy the Worm” this project.) Spend a few minutes plotting just how to paint Japan, check the news for the latest in Japan, make a mental note to donate more $ to the Red Cross. Add two more coats of green.

Phase 5: Pause for dinner with DH and a friend. Delicious roasted chicken with kalamata olives and tomatoes, mixed brown rice and steamed asparagus…oh, and of course, a glass (or two) of pinot noir.

Phase 6: Outline the continents in white acrylic paint. Again, fight the frustration brought on by thick paint, a seemingly “wrong” brush and a globed surface.

Phase 7: After letting the paint dry overnight, enlist hubby to assist in priming the chalkboard surface. Let the chalk dust mess inspire conversation about the places in the world you both still long to visit.

Phase 8: Wipe off the chalk dust and spend a few minutes marveling at your complete creation. Stuck somewhere between Slimy the Worm and Alli the Alligator, pat yourself on the back that you actually accomplished something crafty and visually artistic. Now…what to say…The phrase, surprisingly, comes easy…

“Home is Where the Heart is” — accompanied by little chalk hearts drawn where pieces of my heart live. One in Nanjing, China, where my parents reside. One in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, where my in-laws live. One in Detroit, where the remainder of my immediate family and close friends call home. One in Los Angeles, Calif., for that’s where my other half and I spend our days. And finally, one in Europe, specifically Prague, as that part of the world still holds tightly to my heart.

So, sorry Slimy, I didn’t write your sequel. Apologies Alli, you weren’t painted near your native habitat. No, instead, I thought a bit bigger. I traced. And despite my continued inability to really draw or paint anything magical, I am proud of my journey around the world one lovely weekend.

Looking forward to the next artistic challenge!