A Meerkat Rants: Whose Art Is It, Anyway?

A while ago I realized that I needed a hobby that wasn’t, you know, futzing around on a keyboard.  So I took up knitting.  Great hobby, right?  Keep my hands occupied while I watch tv or something, and have something useful at the end of it!


1.  I’ve got dyscalculia, so shit like patterns and counting stitches?  Not. Relaxing.  In fact, it ramps up my tension levels and has on occasion triggered a faint bout of obsessive compulsive counting.  Which, if you’re not actually OCD, will fuck you up, not calm you down.

2.  My sisters both knit, extremely well.  So there was that lovely competition of “why bother making anything when they’ve already done it better, before, and with more expensive yarns than I can afford?  Also: stressful as fuck.

(Unless I learned how to make socks, which both of them refuse to do, but see #1 above)

3.  It turns out – who knew? – that the repetitive motions of knitting?  Mimic a lot of the repetitive motions of typing.  So after a day of hitting the keyboard, the last thing I should have been doing was picking up a pair of knitting needles.  Not if I wanted to stay away from carpal tunnel or any other strain of RSI, anyway.

Unfortunately, I discovered this after I’d already done some damage, because welcome to my life.

So, knitting was out.  And I’d no interest in jewelry-making, for reasons of it’s an expensive hobby and imagining the Kitten of Thursday let loose near a bead tray should be enough to make you cry.  God knows I would.  Sculpting, or anything like that, couldn’t be pulled out and worked on quickly, nor was it particularly portable.  And sewing is something that I do only when I have to.

Then my middle sister handed me a set of pastels she’d given up on using, and a pad of paper, and said “try this.”

I have – as was proven in grade school and college art classes – no particular talent in two dimensional art.  But I’ve also never chased down the skills for that particular form, either, beyond those required courses.  So I thought, hmmmmm.  Pastels aren’t precision tools, they’re like fingerpaints. I can just muck about and have a good time with this, right?

Mucking abut is probably a good term for what I do. A little this, a little that.

Since then, I’ve added a few cool pens to the pile, and bought a slightly heavier pad of paper, and they sit on the sideboard in my office.  No stress, no obligation, just me mucking around when I feel the need.  It’s good.  It’s fun.  I’m actually maybe not as shitty at this as I always figured (I still have no talent, but I think I’m picking up some understanding and maybe, eventually, some skills.)

I jokingly-not-jokingly call it “arting anyway.”

So where’s the rant in this?  I’m getting there.

I was sitting in a coffee shop, trying to get some work done.  But the book was frustrating me, and the world was frustrating me, so I put the laptop aside, and pulled out the sketchbook.  And I started mucking around – not doing anything particular, just a few lazy sweeps that became marsh grass and a river.  Cliched, easy, calming.

And a … gentleman across the table decided to look over at what I was doing.  And hey, whatever; it’s a shared table and I wasn’t hiding anything.  But then he decided to poke his companion, a young woman, and said to her “tell her what she’s doing wrong.”

Hello, and thank you for playing “who’s the asshole at this table.”

Seriously, who the fuck does this?  Assholes, that’s who.

“Did I ask you?”  Because you know me, I’m a delicate, demure flower of non-confrontation.

And almost on cue, as though he’d read the Asshole Manual, he looked Deeply Offended that this Older Woman might object to his Helpfulness, and went, “no need to get snippy, sheesh.”

Readers, I did not throw my coffee in his face.  Because it was coffee and I needed it.  But holy fuck, I don’t need to tell any of you not to do this, do I?

For those needing a happier ending:

The girl with him – I assume either an art student or up-and-coming young artist herself, looked up from her notebook, looked up at him, looked over at me, looked at the sketch, said “huh.  North Creek?”

I nodded.  Sure, why not, I’d been walking along North Creek earlier that month, the memory or impetus might have come from there.

“Looks good.”  And she went back to her notebook, pointedly ignoring her companion, who had obviously expected her to offer some critique or feedback similar to his own.

I strongly suspect Helpful Guy did not get laid that night.


About Laura Anne Gilman

Laura Anne is a recovering editor-turned-novelist, with an Endeavor Award, a Nebula nomination, another Endeavor award nomination and a Washington State Book Award nomination under her belt. Her most recent series is the award-winning "Devil's West" trilogy, starting with SILVER ON THE ROAD, and her same-universe story collection, WEST WINDS' FOOL, AND OTHER STORIES OF THE DEVIL'S WEST. The novella GABRIEL'S ROAD was published by Book View Cafe on April 30th, 2019. Her Patreon, featuring original fiction, writing advice, and original Rants, is at https://www.patreon.com/LAGilman Learn more at www.lauraannegilman.net, where you can sign up for her quarterly newsletter.


A Meerkat Rants: Whose Art Is It, Anyway? — 7 Comments

  1. For some years it bothered me that my Muse was so distractible. Make money writing books, honey — do not get distracted into knitting sweaters, painting furniture, designing costumes or adorning the walls. But I have realized it is all of a piece. There’s an endless ocean of creativity in there and it finds its channels where it can.

  2. Bravo for you and for “arting anyway.” My father and my brother both being artists, I have long known that I am outclassed in that department (otoh, I can write circles around them, because).

    Bravo for the Girl. Seems like a nice, balanced, person.

    As for Mr. Helpful… trying to get someone else (as a way of establishing a bond with that person) to poop on someone else’s parade? Unasked and unwanted? Dude, that’s an ugly way to go through life.

  3. I get the sister competition thing. My big sis quilts. I took up tatting and bobbin lace because she can’t–or wont–do it. Just wish my arthritic fingers allowed me to continue with it.

  4. Should have just smiled at him sweetly and said “Great! And in return, I’m sure she’ll appreciate me telling her what she’s doing wrong in hanging out with you.”

  5. Keep arting if it’s relaxing! So glad you found something that is working for you. (I miss all mine deeply and hope that I might end up not allergic to everything at the end of this current jaunt.) Yeah, I had to choose between beads and cats.

    Elizabeth Moon writes for 45 minutes and knits for 15. She says this uses her muscles in the opposite direction and works for her–mostly socks. Several people warned me about continuing with crochet–same muscles as typing?

    So I covet portable fiber arts, but suspect I will return to quilting in the end.