I’ve never been to an art gallery. I practically failed middle school art class. I’ve never been considered a good artist at all. Yet, when I went to Wal-Mart a couple weeks ago, I felt the canvases and acrylic paints calling to me.

It’s like they were saying, “Claire, come spend your money on me, you know you want to…” So of course I gave in (I’m not usually one to avoid wasting money on things). Forty bucks, a pack of paint and six canvases later, I became an artist.

It was surprisingly easy. On my first canvas, I took a pencil and drew a rough sketch (emphasis on the “rough”); all I really wanted to paint was a sunset. And as I put brush to canvas and began making broad strokes, all painter clichés I’ve ever heard in my life came to mind. “The picture came to life!” “The color was so real!” “Ah, the power of creation!”

But as I was painting, I was grinning the whole time. All the frustrations and joys of my first few days of college were making it into my picture; everything I felt was flowing through my cheap Wal-Mart paintbrush and into the wonderful act of creating something. And when I finished it, the painting was brilliant; I practically wanted to sell it. Except not. Even now, I’m looking at my painting and shaking my head. The colors weren’t mixed very well, my strokes were kind of sloppy, and it bore only the slightest resemblance to a sunset. (My roommate asked if my little sister had done it.)

But despite the fact that my artwork was far from Van Gogh or Michelangelo, I felt joy at what I had created. I had done something not because anyone expected me to, not because I wanted to be the best, but simply because it struck me as fun. There was no pressure for my artwork to be anything it wasn’t, and no pressure to make it acceptable to someone else’s view of art. That picture was just for me to enjoy trying out something new, purely on a whim. It was awesome.

Since then I have painted two more canvases, both very colorful and very, uh, open to interpretation. And every time I paint, I have to remind myself not to stress too much about trying to make my art any good, but instead take joy in what I am producing just the way it is.

 So, I guess the lesson I have learned (the first of many I will learn in college), is to try new hobbies just because they appear interesting to you. Take classes that seem fun even if they aren’t a Gen. Ed. or major requirement. Meet people you never thought you’d hang out with. Don’t get so caught up in trying to do something perfectly that you lose the joy that made you interested in it in the first place. Buy cheap paint at Wal-Mart and paint a sunset.

In the meantime, I think I will have an art show. My mom will probably come.