Craft Alert: Abstract Fish Art Created at a Swim Meet

My abstract fish art. Photo by Cecilia Kennedy

After sweltering in the hot sun at a swim meet for nearly two hours, I gave up and sounded the craft alert, hoping the commotion would get me escorted off the premises and into the nearest air-conditioned pub.  No such luck, though.  Despite the fact that more than a few markers rolled recklessly onto the ground, the lifeguards did not seem concerned enough to leave their posts.  I, on the other hand, believe that in theory, markers could bounce off the grass and land in someone’s eye, but I like to err on the side of caution and sound alarms.  This effort on my part largely went unnoticed at the swim meet. For this reason, I figure that I would make a terrible lifeguard because I’d be too busy searching spectators for markers instead of watching swimmers. The bar across the street though would see a surge in customers that coincided with my shifts because that’s where I’d send the people with markers/crafting items. I’m not sure they’d protest, either. In fact, they might make and proudly wear T-shirts that say, “I went to my child’s swim meet and all I got was a trip to the bar across the street because I brought crafting supplies to pass the time.”

In any case, the Wenatchee, Washington swim meet is legendary in my eyes—not necessarily because of exciting swimming from participants of all ages—but because a parent from my son’s swim team fell into the pool once.  He’s my hero.  This swim meet is outdoors and it’s typically 90 degrees and dry. The meet lasts well until 9 p.m. sometimes, so people do their best to entertain themselves.  They play corn hole, find iced coffee shops nearby, and play a round of frisbee that maybe accidentally gets too close to the edge of the pool and then Nick Sanders’ Dad (not his real name) falls in. I wish I could fall into the pool.

Instead, at Saturday’s meet, I decided to engage in a water-themed craft that only cruelly reminded me, every step of the way, that my skort was turning swampy from sweat and that I was not allowed to just fall into the pool. The idea for the craft was not entirely original.  It was based on “thumb print art,” which I first discovered when I was about eight years old.  My family lived next to an actual artist who displayed his work in galleries and sold paintings.  One year, he made thumb print fish paintings for my brother, sister, and me.  He used the thumb print to make the body of the fish and then he drew in fins, tails, and eyes.  They were wonderful! I wish I had mine still, but I don’t, so attempting to recreate these fish is the best thing I can do and the best place to work is in the blazing heat of the sun at a swim meet.

Now, the artist I lived next to used paint, but I didn’t want to carry paint around in my purse, so I opted for some Mr. Sketch markers.  I love Mr. Sketch markers because then I can hold my artwork to my nose and smell it.  The markers come in all kinds of “flavors” like blueberry, licorice, and mint.  It’s important, I believe, to experience art in a myriad of ways and I like to help with that process.  Even in museums, art docents with excited looks on their faces tell tourists, “Look at Dali’s melting clocks! Look!  Have you ever wondered what they smell like?  Get close! Get close and smell! Ahh! Bacon!” Mr. Sketch, sadly, does not have a bacon scented marker, so no melting clocks for me at the moment, but my fish did end up smelling like an orchard + root beer and licorice.

To make the thumb print bodies, I tried coloring a deep inky circle of the marker into a piece of paper and then pressing my thumb into it and transferring the print to a new piece of paper. This method did not work. However, a super smart and crafty mom who happened to be sitting next to me, suggested that I color directly onto my thumbs and then make the imprints onto the paper. This method worked brilliantly! Except I didn’t want to run to the bathroom to wash my thumbs every time I wanted to switch colors, so I just used all of my fingers to make fish of different shapes and sizes.  So, the little fish bodies turned out just fine. However, I am not actually very good at drawing anything—even tails and fins and eyes, so I just kind of looked for shapes in the finger prints that I could outline with a black pen.  I looked for shapes that would be similar to fins and tails and then I just drew in eyes somewhere.  This method, I believed, would be enough to “fool the eye” into thinking I had actually drawn fins and tails.  However, when I showed my picture to Nate, I realized I was not fooling anyone.

“Hmmm. . . I see you made some very expressive blobs,” he said.

“No, Dad. They’re birds—Angry Birds, right, Mom?” Alex said.

At this point, I had just expended a lot of energy to create this craft—switching colors over five times—and just melting in the sun, so I couldn’t muster a coherent response.  It turned out like this instead:

“Bleh, Bluh, Bleh, push me, pool, ugh.”

“What?” Nate asked.

“Pub, bleh, bleh, water, then beer,” I said.

“Yes—the blobs look like they’ve been drinking beer.  Lots and lots of beer,” Nate replied.

I neatly folded my piece of art and placed it in a notebook. Then, I gazed longingly at the water, wondering how I could time a fall into the pool without hitting any swimmers.

Your Turn:  Have you ever had to go to a child’s/niece’s/nephew’s all-day sporting event?  How did you pass the time?









33 thoughts on “Craft Alert: Abstract Fish Art Created at a Swim Meet

  1. When my daughter was in 3rd or 4th grade she played competitive chess. We weren’t allowed to watch matches, and we weren’t allowed to leave venue because there was no supervision for kids not actively in matches…..then she debated in middle school, and whereas we got to watch, the time between last debate and awards was excruciating, and no exact time as to when things would happen. The days at soccer and softball were much better, but also cause they were never all day!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rorschach would have a blast with these. For the record, I definitely see fish, the Angry Bird, a green chick and so much more. Imagination is a wonderful thing, just think how wonderful the people you show this to will feel!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Ahhh fingerprint art. Those were the days…
    All day sporting events just beg us to bring craft projects! I use to have a small carrier with card making items and would create as I “watched” the game. Hopefully picking my head up in time to avoid a misplaced soccer ball kick.😬

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Seems like an enjoyable way to pass the time, though I would have opted for a cushion under my head and a nap, maybe drawing pupils on my eyelids to keep up the I’m-totally-loving-being-here ruse. I don’t think Mr. Sketch markers are available in the UK, or I’ve never come across them at least. But now I want some. Going to ask Mr Google if anyone sells them here. I blatantly don’t need blueberry-scented pens, but suddenly I feel like that’s what’s been missing in my life.xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mr. Sketch markers are great! I first found out about them when I was 11 years old and in the fifth grade. There was this girl in my class who was always up-to-date with the latest trends and she had them. They were so hard to find! Now, in the US at least, I can find them anywhere. Thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Every school has at least one of those, a girl who’s always up to date with the latest trends. It was never me 😆
        I found them in the UK! But it’s a long wait for despatch, quite pricey for a pack of markers but they do sound like something I definitely don’t need and therefore probably do need, right? I just love the idea of drawing in orange & blueberries 😄


  5. Those look like a lot of fun! We used to make little cartoon people with fingerprints but I never thought of fish. When Tristan was younger, we spent almost every Saturday at hi kung fu tournaments, which were really fun:-)

    Liked by 1 person

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