We all have gifts. Gifts of the spirit, compassion, healing, wisdom, strength, beauty and art. For some of us the gifts come easily and we don’t even need to think very hard about what we are able or capable of doing. We just do it. When I was little, I loved to draw. I still do. Drawing was the first thing I did. I drew things the way I saw them as a child. Through my childlike eyes. I thought drawing was great and every piece of paper got a drawing on it. Including bills that my parents had to pay. My father thought it was cute, my mother was not amused, so a drawing pad was bought so I would stop drawing on paper that was part of running a household. I also drew on the walls. I drew a bear that according to my mother resembled the bear on my high chair. My mother was definitely not happy about that. Especially since it was only about two feet from the floor. I do not remember that since I was probably very young. But, it was a story my mother told often, especially when people would comment about how well I could draw.
When I started school I believed everyone knew how to draw. I was really surprise to learn that not everyone could draw. I thought it was something everybody just started doing when they picked up a pencil. But, I also learned quickly that not everyone understood an artistically creative child. I believe artists by nature are very observant. We notice shapes, forms, color; we even innately know about perspective long before you have a word for it. We also observe cultural behaviors and that is what can get us into trouble. In the second grade we were learning about Alaska and Hawaii – there was talk that these were going to become States within the year. We would have two new States.
I was enthralled about what made each territory unique and special. Alaska was home to Eskimos who lived in ice houses and hunted whales. I learned that they did not live in ice houses all the time – only when they were Whale hunting. So, I drew a picture of an Eskimo hunting a whale – the teacher loved that drawing and it was put up on the bulletin board. For Hawaii, we learned about the Native Hawaiians, how they fished and loved to tell stories through dance. The difference was that Eskimos wore leggings and parkas to stay warm because Alaska was cold. Hawaii was not cold; it is never cold in Hawaii. Thus the Native Hawaiians wore very little clothing. And, that’s where I got into trouble.
The Art teacher arrived to teach us to use clay that could be baked in an oven. While all my classmates made ashtrays – I decided to make a Hawaiian girl, wearing a grass skirt and leis around her neck. I based her on the film we had seen the day before. All the Hawaiian dancers were adults. So, I gave my Hawaiian girl a bust. My mother had a bust, the teacher had a bust, so my Hawaiian dancing girl had a bust. The teacher and the Art teacher were not amused. The Art teacher picked up my little figure and ripped the bust off my dancer and said that what I did was wrong and nasty. I started crying and was very upset. I was sent to the Vice-Principals office and a note was sent home to my parents. I did not understand what I had done wrong. It was not like I gave her a huge bust and I had put the lei on top like the girls in the film the teacher had shown. In the note the teacher wrote that I made a naked girl and that was unacceptable. Both of my parents came to school with me the next day. My father defended me and told the teacher if she thought nudity was wrong and dirty – then why did she show the film about Hawaii with the adult dancers in native dress? That my figure was not nude but had on a grass shirt and a lei. The discussion between parent and teacher went on for some time. But, I was angry and hurt. Therefore, I smashed down my dancing girl and made her into a cat. That seemed to make everyone happy, except me.
It was my first lesson in prudery and narrow-mindedness. But, it did make me want to understand the human form better. How humans move, sit, stand; the difference between walking and running, reclining vs sitting and the different ways we stand. I got lots of books from the library about artists – especially renaissance and reformation artists. They were my first art teachers. They were also my way of dealing with the first challenges to my artistic expression.
Are you an artist – writer, dancer, singer and visual artists? Share with me your story about your gift – how you discovered it and your first challenges.
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