Luke is taking art lessons in Philadelphia and there was a parents' while you wait type class, so I signed up. (I sorta made myself sign up, if you know what I mean.) I missed the first class last week while we were in Florida, so today I was nervous. You see, although Luke is a natural artist who does things like this in 12 minutes...
I am not and I do not.
I have drawn things before.
When Seth was a baby, I felt compelled to draw his little facer-wacer, so I drew it from a picture and while he was in his crib. I can't find those at the moment, but then I began drawing from other pictures because it felt good and relaxing and satisfying. One day while he slept in his little crib, I sat outside and drew the house we were living in at the time.
That went okay, it was a beautiful day and I remember it felt good to get out of the house and do something else besides breastfeed, laundry, change diapers, cook. After a while, staring at half a house was monotonous. I really preferred faces. I loved drawing faces. I drew a picture of Shunryu Suzuki from the back of a book and then Phil Collins from a record album. I love the shading of faces. But I didn't really know what I was doing, I wasn't drawing as much as I was meditating on an image with my pencil. Still, it was fun and I was very proud of myself because I never did anything worth the materials I was using before. I pretty much stunk at all art things in school.
This is the first picture ever taken of Stan and me after we met. It's the picture I sent to my parents and my dad got on the phone after he saw my expression of glee in it and asked, "What does this guy got?" I'll never forget that sentence.
So, after I had fooled around on my own, drawing my beautiful baby and other assorted images, I found an adult beginners art class starting up at the college. I got crazy brave and signed up. What they mean by "beginner art class" I do not know, because this lady seemed to be jumping in midstream and everyone seemed to know exactly what they were doing and it was all much better than what I was doing, which was sitting there with my jaw hanging open. For one, we had to draw this stupid scene:
Snore. It seemed if it wasn't a person, I was completely worthless and disinterested. Who wants to draw a wooden duck on a book, a cup and a vase? The teacher, whose name was Narcissa, was disgusted with my work. She'd walk by and grunt, click her tongue and point and say, "No." So I went back to drawing my kid's face at home behind closed doors and soon I gave birth to another inspiration. The first is drawn while Luke slept and the second is drawn from a picture.
Today I went to a new art class, a parent class. My teacher "Weezy," a short, older, black lady wearing a smock smeared with lots of paint, is much cooler than Narcissa was. Weezy talks to herself while she's drawing for us, teaching us, and says things to herself (modeling for us) like, "Giirrl! You need to shade more in that corner!" Or "Giiirrll, that's wrong, you need to fix that!" But as fun and easy as Weezy is, I still suck. I don't really like that word, but sometimes it is appropriate and called for. Weezy was showing us how to frame out a still life so that we can paint it at a future date. Weezy knew what she was doing and she was knowledgeable and a fine teacher, but I was still sitting there with my jaw hanging open. It seems to be my way in an art class - drool, look around at all the others sketching away, look at my paper, look at the boring still life. I told myself that it's good to be in uncomfortable situations that challenge me. Then I drew a weak, irrelevant line.
First, we were sitting in a narrow hallway in front of an elevator sketching a small scene, then she moved us into an overcrowded room where all the more experienced parents were at the painting stage. We were supposed to grab an easel, pick a still life scene we liked, wedge ourselves in among all the paint stands and easels and painters for a narrow view of our still life and, by golly just shut up and start! Just - up and start creating, silly! Isn't that what you're here for? Don't ya wanna make some art? It's like someone saying to a group of people who have never sang before, "Go, grab a score of music from that pile, find a music stand and sing away!" That I could do. This was a nightmare, fitting in nicely with the ole forgetting-my-high-school-locker-combination dream. So there I stood clenching my borrowed paper, dropping my pen which scootered under someone's easel. Just about the time I was turning pale and looking for the exits, a father who was sitting at my elbow, painting his first masterpiece offered, "She'll hunt you down if you quit."
Oh, for Pete's sake, where's an easel? Obviously, I'm not getting outta here without drawing something. Darn that Weezy.
So I began. I looked through my little viewfinder....I picked up my arm....I looked at my paper....I made sure no one was looking...I looked at the urn critically...nice urn...I made a little hairy sketch of the urn...~sigh~ I sucked. I won't show you the sketch I made of the brass urn, bowl with radishes and blue towel, but if I actually paint it someday, you'll see it here, where I expose all my faults and weaknesses willingly and regularly.
Moral: You must do the thing you think you cannot do. Eleanor Roosevelt
I always quote that to my children and now it's come back to haunt me.