In response to my mom’s question: Does being a student cause you to question your skills?

Yes, I do think that the school is a significant factor, but I don’t think it is the answer. Most children, if not all, like to draw. But, everyone at some point comes to the realization whether from an external or internal source, that our work isn’t what we would hope it to be. These epiphanies if you will, are usually motivated by a realization that we lack the skills to realize in a drawing what we would like to. I believe that this often happens with comparison. I remember clearly when I wanted to draw something that my art teacher Mrs. Albright was showing me. I remember that I could draw the perspective as clearly as she could, that was easy. Calligraphy was harder, but I recognized that I could practice over and over and it would  get better. But, when she showed me how to draw furry ducks and rabbits, mine weren’t as good as hers, and not even close. I remember feeling frustrated by the lack of facility. I tried repeatedly to do it as well, but couldn’t. I was 7 or 8. So what did I do? I took her drawing, and brought it home and told my mother that I had done it. To this day, I don’t know why. My mother and her friend Sheila were so impressed that they had it framed. My brain didn’t know how to respond to that. Never had any of my drawings been framed. I wanted my drawings to be framed i.e. valued.

Most children at the age of 7 have lemonade stands. I and my friend Wendy, had a gallery. With both produced 10-15 works, and we displayed them on a table so that passersby would buy them. I believe we sold them for 10¢ a drawing. We had agreed before hand that we would split the money. However, on the day of the sale, I sold A LOT more works than her. I remember we made $1.30. Her drawings had contributed only 10¢ to that total. Greedy boy that I was, I didn’t want to share since I did the majority of the work. So, when she went inside to use the restroom, I took the dollar, and hid it in the bushes, and said it blew it away when she returned. She cried, told her mom, and the sale was over when her mother found the dollar hidden in the bushes. To this day, I still don’t quite understand why I did that.

I clearly also remember being selected to be the only one in my class, one of only 5 students in the school that got to go to a special art class with Mrs. Albright. It made me feel special, or valued. Being the kid that was always having trouble with reading or math in elementary school, and no one realizing I was dyslexic, art seemed like the one place where I was valued. I remember all the boys crowding around me as I drew naked women for them. In retrospect, it may have been those drawings that Mrs. Summers confiscated that was the initial inception for her to enroll me with Mrs. Albright’s “Special Art” class.

My mom, much to her credit, always brought home reams of paper for me, and during the summers enrolled me in craft or arts classes. I still love the smell of art rooms: clay, batik wax, wet reeds, kiln fumes, etc. In high school I was always in advanced art. When it came to sculpting with clay it was always easy. I could always build anything I wanted with clay. I could sculpt a likeness far easier and sooner than I could draw it or paint it. My high school art teacher Mr. Janson recognized my desires, and gave me a scholarship and enrolled me in a life drawing class at the university. Only I and one other were extended this honor. Again, being valued for your ability.

Finally, in college, when taking classes, I realized there were others who exceeded my abilities. I asked my professor, who also happened to be a professor of my fathers Prof. Chappell, “Was I any good at this? Should I continue? Will I make it as an artist?”. Basically, I was asking does my artwork have worth, and by extension…do I have worth? His answer…”I don’t know, it depends far more upon how hard you work, than the skills that you start with.” Quite a few years later I see more clearly, although it wasn’t the answer I looked for that day, it was the right answer.

In grad school it was produce the “Best” work, and get the best grade. Therefore, you tried to force goodness.

So now, the cycle begins anew. You must present work to galleries, and they must approve it. Then when it is hung, the public must buy it. Then hopefully, a museum one day will want it. Ultimately, it comes down to value the work and value the person. Frankly, I’m tired of playing by those rules. All the while it has lead to nothing but disappointment, heart ache, and depression. When you think about it, it is quite a bit different from the reason that I liked to do art in the first place, and why I wrote what I did yesterday.

So I am done. I am done chasing the validation from external voices. I do work for me now. I want to feel like I did when I was little. Happy no matter what the product, just happy to be involved with the process.

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