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With the holiday season coming up, gift-giving has been on my mind lately. I’ve always felt that giving handmade gifts was better than store-bought, especially if I could think of something that would be really special to the recipient and find a way to make it myself.
Bring Out Your Inner Demons
The problem with making art with the specific intention of giving it as a gift, for me anyway, is the pressure. I know in my head and heart what I want to make, but I always find that my own skills don’t live up to my vision. It helps to have a purpose and an audience in mind when I’m setting out to make something, but it also raises the stakes. Luckily, my friends and family are far too polite to express their displeasure over a gift, even if it is absolutely wrong.
Which I’m pretty sure was the case when my sister requested a big and bright pink floral painting for her newly redecorated bathroom, and she ended up getting this:
It’s not AT ALL what I intended to make when I got out my paints, but I apparently have very little control over what my hands do. My sister was very polite and appreciative when I gave it to her. But from the look on my brother-in-law’s face upon seeing it, I’m pretty sure it’s hiding in a closet somewhere. But that leads me to my next point…
John Green is Brilliant
John Green is the very talented author of several teen books, including The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska, and Paper Towns. He’s also one half of the VlogBrothers and co-founder of the Nerdfighters subculture. But all of that is beside the point. Today’s reason why he is awesome is a quote of his, which was then illustrated by the incredible Gavin Aung Than of Zen Pencils.
You can see the beautifully illustrated quotation here, and I highly recommend that you do. It’s a lovely way of looking at art and why you should make art as gifts for other people. I like the idea that making art as a gift for someone isn’t entirely about the person you make it for. So, even if they don’t appreciate it, it was still worth making. I try to remember that when I’m making a gift for someone. It helps a little, but I do still feel the disappointment of not having created the perfect gift. It takes the sting out of that obnoxious pink flower I painted, and the disappointment that ensued, but I did learn some things while painting it, so I guess that has to be good enough. Better luck next time, sis!
Sometimes It Works
There have been a couple times I completely nailed the art-as-gift thing. The first time I made a doodle that actually looked like something was this hummingbird. I made it for my mom, who is a bit of a hummingbird fanatic.
I put it in a nice matted frame, and I think she really did like it, despite her being my mom and having to say that she liked it no matter what.
The other one was for my mom’s husband, who is into fishing and tying flies. So I used some ink and watercolors to make him this:
It turned out far better than I had hoped, and I actually wish I could recapture whatever creative spirit I had going on the day I made it. I remember feeling totally inspired and fearless about the whole thing. That feeling was definitely a gift for me.