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The Turtle/Pirate Art Test

As a child, I was lured into the “art test” that ran in newspapers and said in bold letters, DRAW ME. The test featured monthly cash prizes for those who could submit a cartoon turtle among other characters. I was convinced that this test would definitively assess the creative potential of my artistic ability and predict my future, so I never mailed one in. Some inner wisdom I had as a child must have spoken to me, “A test does not determine what I am or am not, I am… creative, an artist.” Besides, this way I could be an artist without the potential rejection from such a definitive test on creative aptitude.

Later in life, I met an artist who claims that he worked tor the “turtle test company.” He wrote responses to artists about their drawing and tried to enroll participants in mail-in art classes. He claimed that it was more of a sales gig than an art gig. He was flippant about the work he did describing the submissions as crazy and all over the place, giving me a new perspective on something I dismissed years ago.

Had I sent an art test to the newspaper address, I may have drawn the cartoon as perfectly exact as I could muster. I would have tried to refrain from tracing, but I might have secretly traced the drawing and cheated rather than providing my honest interpretation reflecting my hesitance to try to avoid failure and my temptation to “cheat” achievement.

My submission as a budding creative would have been one of 1000 snoozer applications chasing perfection via imitation. I might have been impressed with myself for a second, but I would have ultimately had to live with my lack of risk-taking and my lack of personal opinion.

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