So lighting critique is over, and the beat goes on.
I’m a notoriously light sleeper (thanks to an incident at my first college). Thus, just a tiny bit of sound at 3:30 in the morning has me awake and unable to fall back asleep.
I’m taking a Creative Writing class this semester, in which we’re reading Stephen King’s On Writing. He starts the book in an unconventional way; not with his thoughts on how to become a writer, but with a short memoir of the events that led to him being a writer. At 3:30 in the morning, I found myself thinking about some of the moments I remember when I think about my path to art.
The first didn’t even have anything to do with art. I was in first grade. My teacher was Mrs. Brown, who was a most awesome woman; she left the school shortly after I left first grade, and I never saw her again. I remember, to my utter mortification, learning about Harriet Tubman, and I proudly boasted during class that I liked being a slave, because I thought it just meant doing things for other people. I don’t remember her response exactly, but I remember it was one of utter patience and pity for arguably the stupidest seven-year-old in America.
Err, that’s not the memory. It was later in the year, and in the writing portion of our class–I believe this was taught by someone else, actually–we were asked to write a short, one-page story. Another thing I don’t really remember: I think I wrote a story about animals, because back then nothing interested me unless an animal was involved. When our papers were graded and handed back, the writing teacher made a special fuss over mine. I received my paper, which had a big “WOW!” and a smiley face at the top. I hold that as the single catalyst for my interest in writing.
I hated school; nearly every aspect of it. I was teased constantly by students, though admittedly, there were some who had it worse. I tried to be good, but inevitably would do something wrong and get yelled at by a teacher; and sensitive child that I was, I would either cry or just quietly fill up with bitter immortal hatred. More than the teachers or the students, I think I just hated how sensitive I was.
But these moments of sensitivity seemed to come most frequently in art class, for whatever reason. Thus, I disliked a number of my early art teachers, and often dreaded art class. In eighth grade we had a guy I didn’t much like. He was new to my mental roster of available faculty. None of us knew much about him, except he seemed to wear the same pair of black pants every single class; we all got a kick out of that.
We learned about perspective. I was absolutely awful at perspective. I was so bad, and frustrated my teacher so much with my inability to absorb any of his instruction, that he once took my drawing from me and drew the perspective lines himself. I was mortified and pretty certain that he hated me.
But I was not nearly so mortified by that as what happened later. I had done a watercolor painting of a skeleton bird flying over a landscape–why had I drawn a skeleton bird? That seems like an odd choice for me. In any case, I finished up this painting, and my teacher walked behind my table to look at it. He then picked it up, and said, “Come with me.” He led me next door to another art class, where one of my past teachers (there was a rumor going around that she had had a nervous breakdown and admitted herself to a mental institution; I later based a character on her) was in the middle of a class. He walked over to her, held up the painting, and said, “Take a look at this.”
Her reaction was something along the lines of, “Oh my God.”
I honestly can’t remember what else was said, only that none of it was said to me. In retrospect, they very well could have been saying, “What the hell is this demonic image? Do you think she’s suicidal?” But I was never sent to a counselor or the school psychiatrist, so I’m pretty sure it was all good stuff. Mostly, I remember being filled with sheer horror. I just stood there while two teachers–who I had always been very sure disliked me–exclaimed over a watercolor drawing, and the rest of the class stared at me. I was so embarrassed I didn’t even have the mental capacity to feel flattered.
In high school, art class became optional. So I left art completely and threw myself into music. I thought one day I would play in an orchestra. But let’s face it, as much as I loved the flute, I was never a notable talent. I did try art club my first semester, but just like class, I ended up disliking it. The one thing that sustained my art through this time was anime (sad, perhaps, but true). I didn’t take a high school art class until my senior year–when I realized I wanted to go to art school, and simultaneously realized I didn’t have a portfolio. I became well acquainted with all the art teachers that year, who learned of my dilemma and were eager to help. Whenever I think about senior year, it seems that the majority of my time was spent in the art wing.
Yet, it was to no avail. I went to National Portfolio Day, and the only line I was able to get into was University of Hartford’s art program. The recruiter there was underwhelmed by my meager three submissions, but helpfully advised me to come up with ten good portfolio pieces and apply. I thought it was encouraging, but my mother was unimpressed, especially compared to all the other hardcore art students we were surrounded by, who had portfolios bursting with work.
So, I finished high school with two acceptance letters in hand: Philadelphia University for their Accounting program, and Hood College for Computer Science. I was perhaps The Saddest Senior of 2000. Everyone was talking about what they would be doing after high school, what programs they had gotten into, where they would be going. They all seemed really excited by it all.
Inevitably the subject of what I was going to do would come up, and I’d inform them of my plans. They’d all look at me like I was crazy. “Are you kidding? Aren’t you going to art school?” I wanted to, certainly, but it just wasn’t practical.
One girl, while we were standing in the lunch line, said something along these lines: “If you don’t go to art school, I’ll be really upset.”
I think it was at that moment I decided, one way or another, I have to go to art school. Strangely, not even because I really wanted it: but because it hurt to think how many people I would let down if I didn’t. Not just her, but all the art teachers who had helped me throughout the year.
The saddest thing is there are so many names here I don’t remember. And even if I did, I wouldn’t begin to know how to find any of them. But sometimes I think on these people, and I want to reach them somehow, just to let them know how I’m doing. To say, “You probably don’t remember me, but thank you. You made a difference in my life right when I needed it.”
This blog post into Internet space will have to do.
What are some memorable moments that led you to art, or whatever path you now travel?