Saturday, February 27, 2016

I was a Paint by Numbers Kid

I can only draw stick figures, but my father wanted me to be an artist.

When I was in grade school, he was willing to pay for art lessons at The Orange Crate in Huron. But Mom said I was busy enough with school, church, and piano lessons. She bought me paint-by-number kits instead.

My art friends are cringing. Sorry.

Dad didn't give up though. He moved on to another medium. Photography.

I was a high school sophomore one Sunday afternoon when we drove to Lewis Drug in Huron, and he bought me a Canon 35-millimeter camera. That spring he insisted I attend a photography class on Monday nights at Huron College. I did. The information was way over my head. 

But that's my dad, Mr. You-Need-To-Get-Educated.

I didn’t understand aperture and f-stops (and I still don’t), so I put the camera on program and away I went snapping shots for the yearbook.

As a college freshman, I enrolled in introduction to photography, again at Dad’s insistence. I didn't understand the book work (again the f-stops and aperture confused me), so I bombed the paper/pencil quizzes.

I could take the pictures and earned good marks for my photos, but I didn't want a C or worse to start out with, so I dropped the class—only it was beyond the two-week grace period to do so. I have big fat W for withdrawal on my transcript.

I continued to play around with taking pictures, especially with black and white film when I was at home in the summers on the farm. Two young nieces who lived nearby served as my models.

I coerced Suzanne and Jessica to display downtrodden faces and pose by old buildings around their home and mine. I dug up an old rusty lantern, some tin cans and books as props. We had fun in the early 90s on our little photo shoots in rural South Dakota. I did the same with my Walter niece and nephews who lived two hours away.

These photos were a big hit with my brother-in-law Glen who lives in Kansas near me. He liked the black and white pictures so much that they displayed them in their home for awhile.

It was during this time that Martha Brohammer, my friend and colleague, re-taught me how to use the dark room to develop the film. I had been taught that in the college course I’d dropped. She was the art and Spanish teacher when I came to Cheney.

I wouldn't know how to function in a dark room today and am glad digital photography came along.

Melodie's KSN Shot of the Day in May 2010
In 2004, I bought my first digital camera, a point and shoot thing. In 2006 for Christmas, my husband Chris bought me a better one since my old camera failed to capture the beautiful fall foliage of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, where we were married.

Then in 2009, he bought our first camera with the swing-out viewfinder, so we could have decent videos of his daughter Brittany's singing and acting events. 

Thus began Chris’ photography hobby. He's had many cameras since and continues to dabble and learn. It's been fun watching him develop into an artist and actually sell his work on Fine Art America. He passed me up months ago. His Facebook photography page, Framing Kansas, is three-years-old this month with over 12,000 followers.
It’s still fun to remind him though that I was the first one with a KSN photo of the day. A shot of a bird, of all things, whose mouth was full of worms. Leon Smitherman of Kansas Today, dubbed it "Breakfast of Champions" in May 2010.

Has anyone ever tried to turn you into something you're not? Did you develop any little bit of the desired skill?


  1. Thanks for the nod, Mel. I struggled mightily with that extra Spanish endorsement. I draw on it to counsel students into following their hearts into a career. It really is painful to feel stuck doing something for a career that you are good at but don't enjoy. Now as a published illustrator and exhibiting regularly in a gallery in Winfield, I'm even more grateful that my mother didn't win the practical over a pursuit of the heart argument!

    1. You're so welcome, Martha. I'm happy for your success too. To enjoy one's work, makes it one's passion instead of a vocation.

  2. Hey! I don't guess anyone has ever tried to turn me into something. Though I've shoved the violin at the girls ... but they aren't too interested. I was interested for a while, but the interest slowly fizzled out. I love photography. I have a great camera, but I need a better lens. I don't understand the aperture and all that so much either ... shutter speed ... so I usually set it on automatic. It takes over for me. I have a DVD I need to watch, but I haven't made time for it yet. I'm taking my husband's aunt and uncle's pictures today or sometime this week, depending on the weather, for their anniversary. I'm praying I get some good shots. One thing I've noticed is that my pictures turn out better when the sky is the background. :) And my youngest has recently picked up the guitar on her own. We'll see how far that goes. :)

    1. You are just like me with the automatic setting! About the sky in the background, my husband likes there to be clouds because, he says, then the sun doesn't blast out the picture. I now notice when it's a puffy cloud day. Ha. That violin business may have struck a cord (or a string, lol) with your one daughter now that she's dabbling in guitar. I wish I'd have learned. Now I feel too old to do things like that.