Friday, April 11, 2014

The Puzzle-I am the Artist

How can you tell if your baby is artistic? There are many answers to this question. It can be the way the baby holds a pencil or the way they mix colors. Some babies can draw circles very early on. But I was not one of those babies.

On the corner of Yates, and one house down, stands a very ordinary red brick house. The sidewalk leads up to several porch stairs which are lined with tiny flower pots that house some tiny pink flowers. These stairs lead to a small landing where a window cuts through the brick. To the right of the window is the hidden doorway.

Upon entering the home, the sounds of tiny feet and screaming voices of young children fly through the air. Clanking dishes from the kitchen far away can hardly be heard through the chaos. A young woman of average height, with curly brown hair and big brown eyes, rushes into the hallway. She quickly reprimands the noisy children and reminds them that their baby sister is sleeping in the next room. As soon as she turns her back, the children snicker and run through the halls once more. The woman chases after them.

At the end of the hall lies the master bedroom. Its theme of love and romance is highly apparent. The shag carpets are a bright red, and they meet up with light pink painted walls. Above the bed hangs a picture of beautiful dancers performing the Waltz. Their dresses are the colors of the rainbow which elegantly flow around them. On the other wall is a hand-painted wedding portrait of a gorgeous couple. Their smiles stretch wide across their faces, and their demeanor is brightened by the love they share.

In the right corner of the room are two windows; one which looks outside to the porch and the other to the neighbor's house next door. Below these windows rests a small wooden crib. A tiny head pokes up. The baby's tangled mop of bushy blond hair engulfs the top of her head, including her small facial features. Like a stealth bomber, she silently rises without detection. She is tall enough to peak outside and is able to reach the windows with her stubby little fingers. The objects outside catch her attention. She watches the wind blow the leaves on the trees. They sway in rhythm to the birds' glorious song. A lonesome squirrel bounces along the sidewalk before she gracefully hops onto the massive trunk of a tree and scurries up to meet her friends. The baby girl watches in amazement.

The scene is wonderful and exciting. The little baby girl takes in all of nature's beauty. She wants to contribute. Carefully, the baby girl reaches for the only art medium she knows. She smears it all over the window in a circular motion. Her giggles catch the attention of her busy mother. When her mother slips into the room, the baby girl turns. Her eyes light up and she proudly shows her mother her artwork. Mother does not understand. Instead, she focuses on the mess covering her windows, the baby's face and hands, and the crib bedding. The smell isn't so pleasant either because this baby's medium of choice is the contents of her diaper.

Many years have passed and the baby is now a teenager. She has come a long way from painting windows with poo. She has spent the years learning how to draw all sorts of things. Her love of superheroes, game characters, and dragons dominate her focus. Her first drawings were of the Mario Brothers and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Later, she studied the art of comic book characters. And her current love is the fantasy world of dragons and princesses.

Grade school was a hard time for her artistically. There were other classmates who were great artists and hated to share the spotlight. In fact, they loved to make fun of her creative works. One particular project involved drawing a flame representing The Holy Spirit. All of the other classmates, including the artistic ones, choose to trace a picture from their workbook. She created her own, and it was different from all the others. Instead of giving praise, they ridiculed it. Every day, while it was hanging amongst theirs, she felt ashamed because of the stigma they placed on it. Then one day, redemption came in the form of a Halloween Art Contest.

Her classmates were certain that one of the other artistic students, whom they loved, would win. She didn't have a chance because he was a very talented artist. She carefully created a cute Halloween Theme depicting a haunted house surrounded by bubbly ghosts. Even when she entered it, she felt she would lose. Her classmates raved over his entry and claimed he would win hands down, but when the voice came over the intercom, the lady revealed a very shocking winner. The girl sat in disbelief, but soon felt accomplished. Her talent was finally recognized.

Now, she is a Senior surrounded by Sophomores in one of her three art courses. Her art teacher, Mr. E., just finished his lecture on colored pencils. All of the students are busy working on their projects. He paces around and examines each one's progress. The melodic sound of 'What a Girl Wants' by Christina Aguilera fills the room. The teenager sketches her project on the acid paper before her. Colored pencils sprawl across the table. She hears the footsteps of her teacher approach. He stops behind her, leans close, and says, "You need to purchase Prismacolor Colored pencils. Crayola is not good for blending." The girl turns to face him.

"Okay. I didn't think there was a difference. And Prismacolor is too expensive for my budget right now" she replies respectfully. The teacher nods. He understands how costly the pencils are, especially for someone with limited funds.

"Prismacolors are easier to blend because they are a softer pencil. Crayola is waxy and hard. It will be difficult to blend. These will be fine for now. Just try to save up to purchase the professional brand if you can." He smiles at the girl and continues to make his way through the classroom. The bell rings and the rustling of papers and zipping of backpacks overtake the music in the room. The students rush out in a hurry. No one wants to be late for their next class.

The next day in Mr. E.'s class, the girl resumes work on her project. She starts her color study for her image. The teacher bursts out of the supply room. Excitement fills his face. He approaches the girl and says, "I just saw your artwork of the yellow lovebird from your Graphic Design class in the hallway. Do you understand what I was saying about Prismacolors?" The girl tries to chime in, but Mr. E. keeps raving. "The colors are blended really well, and the bird looks realistic. It is a great piece. Maybe you could borrow some pencils from someone in class."

"Uh...Mr. E. I didn't use Prismacolor for that piece. I used Crayola." she timidly states. The teacher steps back in amazement.

"Wow! That's Crayola!" A big, confused smile stretches from ear to ear. "Amazing! Well, then. I guess keep doing what you are doing." The young teacher walks away. The girl looks down at her project, and chuckles to herself.

Many days, feats, and failures later, the girl choses to pursue an art career. Her parents make too much money for her to qualify for financial aid, regardless that she is funding most of her tuition on her own. This situation limits her to the local community college without a designated art program. Life is becoming difficult since it is riddled by family problems. Her confidence takes a sharp decline, and life does not seem bright. Everyday, she diligently shuffles into her art courses. The bitter teachers try to discourage her from seeking a place in the art world because most art students from that school end up in the artistic blackhole of Kinkos. She has only one option left before she throws her arms up in disgust.

A career counselor informs her of an internship designing ads for a local company. The girl jumps at the chance and meets with the company owner. He explains how his small company is trying to make a dent in the construction tools industry. He is in need of a talented artist to help bring his vision to life. She agrees to come in and design for him.

But the next visit is disappointing. The owner brings in two laborers, one who is his son, to help design the ads. The girl joins in on the brainstorming, pitching her ideas, and making suggestions. The owner's son refutes all of her ideas, and discusses his own. When they agree to go with his idea, she accepts the creation of the design. At home, she works tirelessly putting the elements together to create the ad she thought they discussed in the meeting.

The next meeting, she presents her piece, while the son presents his. The design she created is everything the owner said he wanted; but, when the son produces his mediocre piece, the owner quickly decides to use his design. The girl slumps down in defeat and questions whether this is what she signed up for. Soon after, she quits the internship and leaves art behind. Far behind.

Several years, two babies, and a busy life later, the girl, now a woman, finds herself in a food manufacturing plant. She is surrounded by interesting characters. Her favorite is her fun-loving artist friend. The two get into a conversation about their lives.

"What did you do before coming here?" he wonders. The woman slaps a chunk of bacon onto the slender conveyor belt. The loud slicing sound of the machine makes communication hard.

She glances at him and says, "I went to school for dental hygiene and I used to be an artist."

Perplexed, the man responds, "Used to be an artist?"

"Yea. I loved to draw all the time, but I don't do it anymore." The woman grabs another piece of bacon and throws it on the conveyor. The machine shakes.

"You do realize that you never stop being an artist." The woman pauses before meeting his gaze. "It is like you don't stop being human. You are who you are and you cannot stop being it." His words awaken a silence inside of her.

And then it clicks. 'I AM an artist!' She proudly remembers.

Thank you for joining in for the 1st part of my four part personal story.
Please check out The Puzzle:The Writer Within


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