Many people have this misconceived conception of what literacy is. I, myself, used to believe that literacy was only the ability to read. I was wrong. I have learned another very important sense of literacy. Drawing. Literacy is about being able to comprehend and interpret different “languages”. What is meant by different languages is unknown terms to the common ear for certain hobbies, a way of communicating and learning new things. Drawing just seemed so simple and comprehendible to me when other pieces of literacy were not so easy. Literacy is a tactic used to discover a way to learn that best suits your ability.
I am a college freshman and I feel that my literacy is still evolving. Drawing has changed my life, forever, as it will continue to do so. As I will demonstrate through this autobiography of my literacy, experiences gained through the process of “growing up” really do help build a person’s identity. My earliest memory of literacy was spending time as a young, curious child, with a crayon or colored pencil, drawing colorful little scribbles all over anything that was acceptable to draw on. This “thing” seemed so natural to me that it struck a huge interest in my young mind.
Although, I did not yet understand the scribbles, I just felt deep down in my heart that I was meant to draw. I loved drawing. In fact, I still do. I don’t really remember very many details about the scribbles that were left on the canvas once I placed my drawing utensil on it. I can infer that drawing left such an impression on me that it was the beginning of my interest in becoming literate. Entertaining myself through use of imagination and drawing was certainly the correct place to start, for me. This brings me to another point, growing up. As a child, I was taught to color in the lines.
I began attempting to imitate those lines that I was supposed to be coloring in. This was the most important point to becoming to be literate within the art domain. Art was always my way of understanding the world and my place in this “Mad-house”. I could express my feelings without having to actually having to write out a journal entry. Drawing is my way of “writing” and letting my emotions fall into place upon the paper. School taught me, among many other students, what they believe is the correct definition of literacy is. If it was done any differently, it was assumed to be wrong.
It was like the teachers gave you a graded coloring page when they assigned essays or homework. I love coloring and all, but that was like coloring in a grayscale coloring page of a boring, inanimate object. Every single detail had to be within the lines and in the right place, or it was declared wrong. There was not much room for use of imagination. Everything was expected to be dull and dry. The only time that I draw is when something very tragic or important occurs in my life; as an emotional writer would do so as well. In this way, one might be able to see the comparisons between writing and art.
During High School and Middle School I was assigned a couple of books to read that were written by scholars. Those books were given to a group of bored students who were actually expected to read those books. I could not paint a picture in my head with the words that slowly flowed off of the page, as if it were a glob of honey flowing off of a spoon. School tried to ruin my imagination and break me down; this would initially make it easier for me to conform to society. Art class is the reason I don’t usually draw for pleasure often. Drawing was my escape from the world and art class pushed me to draw more than I longed to do.
They forced me to draw pictures I was not interested in. Art is about self-expression and letting emotions out, not about having a format in which you must follow the rules, just like writing in high school! I trust that literacy became imprinted on me because of the feeling I got after truly expressing myself and the accomplishment after finishing a detailed picture. It’s like the feeling of accomplishment that a book worm gets from finishing a really powerful book. When I was in 9th Grade, I had an encouraging, yet a bit crazy, art teacher that took the time to help me figure out a way to better enhance my skill in drawing.
Although I could not sculpt or paint to save my life, I could draw. My teacher encouraged me to draw and challenge myself to practice certain techniques. I still have a drawn self-portrait that was placed into a show case at the High School. I felt so accomplished. I wish I had more teachers that stepped out of the box to help students gain more interest in becoming literate. I cannot speak for all teachers, but my ninth grade art teacher tried to teach me how organize my thoughts put those thoughts on paper in a way that she could also understand.
There will always be someone that will find something wrong with your choice of literacy. One could either take the constructive criticism or ignore it. I enjoy the criticism, even though at times it can be hurtful. Although, my art teacher had an impact on my drawing, she was not the reason that my literacy “took off”. Now, if I were to name the place where my literacy took off to a whole new level, it would have been during the summer of 2012 after High School graduation. My mother began seeing a man that had a friend willing to let me apprentice at his tattoo parlor.
I was so excited! My initial thoughts about drawing were not that confident. I did not feel as if my artwork was suitable enough for the common eye. I was wrong. I had a dire need to impress the tattoo artist, so I began drawing more and more. Unfortunately, I lost the apprenticeship, because my mother decided that we weren’t going to move anymore. I was devastated. I was only 16, so finding another tattoo parlor that would apprentice me was almost slim to none. The experience was definitely an eye-opener for me. My drawings took on a whole new persona.
I am grateful to that tattoo artist that helped me to feel confident in my drawings. I can only imagine where I would be today if I were able to take that apprenticeship when I was 16. I have an idea of where I would be if I could have taken that apprenticeship… As stupid as this may sound, I probably would not be in college right now, or maybe I would. A degree could just be a fallback plan, in case tattooing did not pan out. I would have a steady job, or apprenticeship, where I could do something that I love. Having the chance to learn how to do tattoos would have been a tremendous impact on my literacy.
It could have greatly improved my art techniques and my knowledge. I still hope to apprentice at a tattoo parlor one day in the future. Unfortunately, timing right now is horrible. I am in college. I am broke and I work approximately 30 hours a week. Similar to my previous experiences with becoming a talented artist, I hope to expand my knowledge and techniques into my art portfolio. I am working on it! I believe that there is an imperative lesson to be learned from my childhood literacy experiences. I spent a reasonable amount of my childhood devoting my imagination into my art.
Maybe, as a society, people could learn to devote their imagination into drawing with emotions, not with their eyes. That is the real meaning of comprehending critical literacy. I did not truly understand the meaning of critical literacy until I began my Composition class for the spring of 2014, believe it or not. Imagine how much emotionally deeper my thoughts would have been knowing what I know now, if I was taught these concepts in Elementary or Middle School. However, as I set my pencil down, I realize how difficult critical literacy is to learn about at such a young age.
Children are thrown so much information. It is very difficult to retain even a minute extent of what is being thrown their way. I feel that the reason for such big interest in art is due to the simplicity of comprehending the pictures put in front of me. Pictures can depict any kind of emotion, whereas reading takes forever to depict any emotion, sometimes even pages of dull information. All I see when I look at a book is a bunch of rambling words. Pictures and drawings have a way with words for me. When I look at a drawing, I see long flowing lines, emotions, but overall, I see a story.
As an artist, I always try to think about how art can complement other subjects. Many people don’t perceive art as serious coursework. Looking at my own literacy, it is clear that my efforts to be successful in my drawing were essential in creating my literacy identity. Could you say that my literacy is an example to connect art and other subjects? I believe that it could be. If students were taught how to project their voice and express their imagination, then the reading comprehension and retention rate would be much higher.
I believe that reading a piece of literature, or looking at a picture in my case, without truly understanding what is going on is like buying the supplies for painting, taking painting lessons, and never picking up a paint brush. Understanding literature is solely the person’s responsibility. When I was a child, I took bits and pieces of everyone’s art styles. I slowly began sketching my literacy identity. As time went on, I quit “borrowing” other’s art styles. I then began to create my own drawing style and techniques.
My own persona comes out in my drawings. As I previously stated, my literacy was significantly enhanced by my learning how to interpret drawings and their meanings. It was a difficult task, but the end result has been most satisfying. One of the most important steps that go along with understanding literacy is being able to decode the ideas given to you, organize them, and then let the words pour onto the paper. Just thinking of the ideas and attempting to interpret the ideas is not enough; that would just be a half effort.
The only real way to begin understanding literacy is to have a desire to do so. It appears that my literacy identity was immensely influenced by my own desire to become better at it. This has me questioning, “Where did the desire come from? ” After asking myself that question, I believe that my desire was influenced by the people and examples surrounding me. My mother encouraged me to express myself as much as I possibly could. My grandma drew when she was younger. Those two women were the most important people of all to push me to do more art.
They gave me constructive criticism. I worked on my problem areas and improved my literacy. I had friends and teachers telling me how good my drawings were. This was so helpful. All of the people that surrounded me encouraged me to do what makes me happy, as long as I was making intelligent choices. Everyone around me had literacy going for them, but I believe that is a very important aspect that has shaped me into the person I am today. Luckily, I had plenty of people behind me and encouraging me to pursue art. Wouldn’t that encourage you to become more literate?
Courtney from Study Moose
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