Must Haves for The Clumsy Artist


Well the title of this article describes me. Maybe it describes you too. I’m not exceptionally graceful physically and most often not verbally either, which explains a little about why I’m a painter and not a volleyball player or lawyer. Let me give you some insight.

At 17, I had graduated from high school and moved to a new city. I was so excited for new adventures and happened to meet my first boyfriend ever (I don’t count the middle school boy where we would hold hands at recess….that’s just…no). So, on our first date I wore this awesome black, faux leather jacket with long, black furred, faux, leather collar and cuffs. Don’t mock me, it was all the rage in 1998. He wore a vintage brown REAL leather jacket….from the thrift store. What do you expect from teens?

Anyway, he took me out to a hotel restaurant, one of the fancier restaurants in town – there weren’t many as you would expect from a place where the pets out-populate the humans. I had a salad. The chances of eating a salad and not getting dressing on your face is slim, but that’s not the embarrassing part. As we were leaving, I grabbed my coat with the long-furred collar and cuffs from the back of my chair and draped it over my arm. As we were walking down the aisle to the register to pay, my cuff caught a plant that was elbow height on a pedestal and toppled it to the floor! Good thing it was a FAUX plant…no damage done.

Story of my life.

During my architectural student career, I worked in an art framing shop…with tools….and glass….and fragile delicate pieces of peoples dreams. But I was able to put together frame styles and matting colors to match exactly what any client wanted like nobody’s business. One day a couple walks in with an aboriginal print they bought from British Columbia. You could tell the quality was there. It was actually acrylic on watercolor paper and why they called a print I’m not sure.

So we walk over the wall of frame corners where you can set your art down on the counter below to match with frames and matts. The lady sets her art down. Then she sets her coffee next to it, close to me. As we were reviewing all the options I swing my arm over to point to a potential frame and viola! Down goes the coffee all over the expensive amazing work of art! My heart stopped. Her heart stopped. I thought I’d be fired – or have to pay for that ruined print….not cool as a student.

Fortunately, my more experienced coworker had the number to the art conservator that was friends with the owner of the framing shop. Apparently this kind of thing happens once in a while, where a piece of work is ruined-somehow, eh hem-  or paper or canvas tears because it’s old or of poor quality. So she comes in the save the day like a superhero. Phew. And I was not fired and the print came back like nothing ever happened.

Now, fast forward about 5 years and I enter my first art fair. It was outside and free to enter. Anyway can sell anything artsy there. It could be paintings, or jewellery, or leatherwork, or woodwork. It’s more like a craft fair even though it’s called “Art in The Park”. So here I am, with no tent and rather ill-prepared. I have a solid painting up on an easel with prints of it below. Tons of people are ooo-ing and aww-ing at the painting until a gust of wind blows the whole thing over and makes a half inch tear in the canvas. Nice words were not in my head at the moment.

But I continued with the show, tear and all. And then I meet one of our local politicians whom admired that piece greatly. Her, her husband, and I, all chatted for a while, about nothing really. Just chatting. And then, the deal struck. She’d purchase the painting half price if the tear gets fixed. I thought that was fair.

I immediately contacted a friend of mine who was studying art conservation at the time and who’s specialty was in mending fabrics. For my situation, she suggested getting acid free glue and patching the back with another piece of canvas and repainting over top. Or, I could sew the tiny little threads back together and repaint overtop. I chose the former since I don’t sew. But by the end, you’d never know it happened. I delivered the painting to the politician’s office and they couldn’t tell where the rip ever was. I visited the painting once after that to see how it was holding up and it was just dandy.

So if you’re a bit of a clumsy artist like me, you’ll three things handy at all times: A first aid kit, insurance, and the number to a good art conservator.