May 09, 2005

Another True Story

I was in third grade and the Art Teacher was to choose 4 students for Special Art, which was a coveted class every Friday afternoon that took the Chosen out of social studies and let them experiment with oil paints and copper enameling and real clay. I was dying to be one of them, but I didn't know how to prove to Art Teacher that I deserved to be among those chosen.

I knew that artists were nonconformists. That they used colors in unconventional ways, because there was a pastel picture of me in the hallway at home with blue and green in my face that Mommy said an artist had drawn when I was young. I didn't like it, because it looked funny, but I knew that artists saw things in funny ways because of it.

I also knew that artists dressed weirdly, in wild costumes and turbans and lots of gold jewelry and big rings. Our art teacher didn't look like that at all; she dressed in beige, beige pants, beige blouses, brown shoes, brown hair...everything about her was noncommittal. That should have been the first clue, but it wasn't.

On the day we were to be tested, I was ready with my brand new crayons and white paper. And when Art Teacher put Peter and the Wolf on the record player and told us to draw what it made us feel, I knew exactly what to do. I knew that I shouldn't draw big black figures and color inside the lines, because true artists didn't need lines, and unlike Gareth who was drawing cars as usual I wanted to draw something about the music. What, what, what?

Then I had it. I'd draw the wolf sniffing Peter as it nosed out of the woods. I freed my arm and started scrawling in long strokes, letting the music guide me, not worrying about the lines and colors going exactly where they should. I wanted to let the wolf emerge, not cage him up in my drawing.

When the music ended, I handed in my drawing barely able to look at what I'd drawn. I was certain the art teacher would see my talent and applaud my effort to free the artist inside and let the wolf out of the paper. I was sure she'd see how I'd used different colors in weird ways just like a real artist would. I was certain I had Special Art in the bag.

The following week the four names were to be announced. I wriggled in my seat, eager to hear. Art teacher said, "Jane C." Well, that was understandable. Jane, like me, was good at everything, though I found her a little too obedient to the rules. Then the second name: "Rachel." Huh? Who'd a thought of Rachel getting into Special Art? But maybe they just wanted to give her a chance to shine qat something. The third name was also anticipatable. Then the fourth name...I waited. I knew my name would be announced now. Who else deserved it more? I waited and waited, whispering it to myself. Then the teacher coughed, as if she'd lost her place in the list and had just found it again. "Gareth G."

Gareth?? But he drew cars! He drew black outlines of cars and slavishly filled them in with colors! Not like any artist would. His pictures were just like a regular third grader's, nothing special at all! I could feel the tears starting but swore I wouldn't give in and cry. Special Art wasn't worth it, not if you had to draw outlines of cars to get in. I'd learned a lesson and it was not how to be an artist, it was simply how to get into special art classes that had nothing to do with Art.

Posted by pamwagg at May 9, 2005 11:44 AM


Dear Pam,
You never stayed within the lines. You could not possibly wear beige. To paraphrase Don McLean's summation of Van Gogh,"I could have told you, Pamela, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you."
Your biggest fan,Perky

Posted by: Paula Kirkpatrick at May 9, 2005 04:19 PM

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