“It’s a waste of time.”

That was my thought halfway through yesterday as I was working on the pen-and-ink process of my drawings for homework. I kept reminding myself I didn’t have to do my PIPI portfolio as a day-long expedition with watercolour. I could have typed out what’s in my kete, designed a family tree on the computer, copy-and-pasted my mihi from Evernote, boxed the meaning of my name… printed it out and there ya go. Sense of accomplishment and assignment done! Yet… my heart kept whispering… where’s the fun in that? 

When I heard we could do our ‘portfolio’ creatively, I immediately thought of my “love-but-don’t-do-it-enough”. Otherwise known as paintings done with pen-and-ink and watercolour (and yes, it is watercolour because I am a New Zealander!). I thought, hey, that’d be a lovely keepsake to remember all I learned this year.

Yet in practicality, it is an utter waste of time. First, you actually have to put paper under the desk you’re working at. Don’t forget two paper towels– one wet and one dry. You’ll see why these are needed later. You open the book. Before you start ANYTHING, you have to decide what goes on which page! Then you have to get a pencil to do all the outlines, and make sure the titles are straight with that ancient tool called a ruler. You use an eraser (which you have to hold in your HAND) to rub out unwanted lines CONSTANTLY. And ugh those little eraser crumbs get all over the page and on to my lap. Next? Oh this is where it gets sillier. You actually use one of those old-fashioned quill pens with a removable metal tip, and dip it in a tiny bottle of ink, that– if spilled, won’t be going ANYWHERE despite furious hand-washing. Didn’t they invent calligraphy pens that do the same thing?! 

So you ink over the pencil lines across four pages of art, and you have to deal with a spill of the ink bottle (you DID remind yourself to put the cap on!!) and you sit there shocked for a second trying to choose whether to save the ink or your desk. 
As the ink slowly seeps through the layers of paper to the vulnerable wood, desk wins out. Wet paper towel is now used. As well as the dry one. More time wasted cleaning up. Who has ink spills on a computer?! So you get through the ink process. You start to think it actually could look cool. Then– oh no time for watercolour. Painting on paper is a little ridiculous. So you have four pages to do, and if you manage to get one page done, you have to wait for it to dry. Thankfully a soccer game helps that one. But more time is gone. But back to watercolour– you have to deal with only SIXTEEN colours in your cheap packet and there isn’t even a brown. And you’re supposed to be colouring in flax ketes and tree trunks!!! How does that even work? May as well just give up now. Well, yellow-beige-and-black sorta make brown, and oh the yellow actually looks kinda cool. AND OH NO THE INK IS BLEEDING WITH THE WATERCOLOUR!!! But hey, that looks pretty cool, too. And you wonder… as you wrestle with the water and paintbrushes… maybe, just maybe it was worth it. What am I talking about, I basically took a whole day of my study week to draw some pictures!! I could have finished my biography of a significant person in NZ education and maybe cracked some parts of my author study!! 

Hah. That’s what me in the paperless generation would say. But what about me– the one who enjoys art on paper? Me, the kinesthetic-visual learner? Me, the one designed by my Creator to reflect His beauty with what He gave me? The great secret is, however crazy that process was, I actually enjoyed it. But not only that, not only sense of satisfaction and beauty– I subconsciously learned lessons of patience, preparation, resourcefulness, and endurance. I can learn those lessons on the computer,  but not to the same level of life-application. On Pages (oh, the irony) I can just make a mistake and press ‘delete’ or ‘undo’. In ink painting? I have to learn how to transform an action that turned out horribly wrong, into something beautiful. 

Maybe it was a waste of time, I could have accomplished what I needed a lot faster, and still had something pretty. But that’s not the point. Stressing about quick completion can often distract us from the things that matter most. The point of my project was to discover who I am and where I come from. I discovered I really do enjoy art and I used my nana’s ink pen to draw my own family tree. I dare to say the project was a success, for that. But only because of the gift God gave me to draw, because of all those who were dedicated to teaching me. And what an amazing thing– I’m learning how to be a teacher. Thank you, God, thank you. 

Link love: my brother’s recent blog post on “Taking Back Your Time”