Updated: Mar 28
Today I am posting a quick read to get back into the swing of things with my own fiction.
I’ve posted several of my drawings before to give a rough idea of what my various characters look like, and today I am continuing that trend with a homework assignment.
I am currently enrolled in Drawing II class at my local university. My teacher, an engaging man who seems genuinely interested in his students, gave us cart blanch for our first assignment. He told us to bring in a drawing of our choice. No limits to how much we could, “work it up”. The only parameter was that we do a fresh drawing for the class.
So I decided to use a sketch I had done several years ago of my character of Siah. I worked it up, cleaned it up and used it for class.
The paper I used turned out to not be the best so I decided to leave it as a simple line drawing and not color in the skin. I had worried not coloring in the skin would leave it looking blank but in the end it just looked, intriguing.
The only color I added was to Siah’s eyes and earrings and left the clothes colored but sketchy looking. The simple design led the eye to the sparse color. In the end I was surprisingly satisfied.
Part of the assignment was to have our work critiqued in class by my classmates and teacher.
I wasn’t worried, I knew it was a good piece, and thankfully I’m dealing with adults and not children. But I did wonder what they would think of this. When my turn came for critique, I was surprised what people saw in my piece.
One person said they thought the two drawings were relatives. I hadn’t thought of that one.
Another classmate noted it was a, “Simplified line drawing”. True, it is.
Some said it reminded them of a Fashion illustration. Hmm. Fair point.
One student said it reminded her of the character design for the movie Encanto.
One noted the unity in the design. Good observation, but none were noting what I had intended the audience to see.
Until finally, during a lull, one quiet student said, “It reminds me of concepts for character design. Keep the face but change clothing and hair.”
Yes, finally, someone saw my drawing for what it was!
Another student agreed saying, “Yeah, like customizing the character design in a video game. Like how you have character traits you get to pick in a video game; Interchangeability with standardized features. I didn’t know you could do that in a video game but it makes sense.
One student said it gave her “Turn” vibes. I had to later look up what she meant, it turns out it was a reference to a TV show about a young man who chooses to fight in the American Revolution. I get it and I like it. Very apt to Siah's spirit. :-D
One student’s impression left me giggling a little- She noted the drawing has no direct focal point. True. But then she went on to say she found the drawing a little unnerving because of the, “yellow” eyes. That she found the eye color eerie. Several others agreed with her. Huh?
Then the teacher agreed with her saying, “That is true, the eyes are not a natural color, when a character has that eye color it’s never good, they usually only indicate a villain and that slight smirk she’s giving only reinforces the eeriness. This drawing makes you wonder what is going on inside the characters head. ”Seriously?
“He said he felt that the characters are “looking at something up on display, as though we are allowed to look at this person.” He nailed that one the head! :-D
During a break we had after the critique, I explained to him and several others who were still in the room observing each other’s work, that this was indeed a work in character design. That she is simply a woman who has been through a lot, both emotionally and physically and this is a picture of her genuinely happy; that this is as much as she can smile. And as for her eye color, they are simply hazel eyes, that, when reflecting firelight, appear almost yellow in tone.
He laughed out loud at my explanations and about how much they made out of the same character in different hair and clothes and jewelry.
Isn't it remarkable how people see so many different things out of one image?
Isn't it amazing how you can see menace where none was intended?
How you can have such a strong impression of a persons character just from their face alone?
When I gave Siah hazel eyes, I simply thought it was an interesting touch. I hadn’t meant any of the menace people saw in the character. I didn’t intend for anyone to see danger in Siah’s slight smirk. I had meant her slight half smile to show that that is as much as Siah is able to smile.
So now that I’ve told you the story behind the drawing, here is some five minute fiction to go with it. This is the first time we learn what Siah looks like and why.
Siah wiped her tears as she said goodbye and hung up the phone. Elaine and Manaen could pray as only those raised in a Baptist Southern black church could. She didn’t know what would happen tomorrow, but she felt peace.
She hadn’t meant for her quick call to ask for prayer to turn into a full blown prayer session, but she was grateful for it. She hadn’t realized until now, just how hungry she’d been for the company of other Christians; for other people who would pray for her.
She sat back in the chair and sighed. She listened as Nathan practiced cleaning his semi-automatic, as Eric took his time drawing big strokes on a page. She smiled, during the two weeks of solid rain; she and the kids had drawn and colored quite a bit. Once she’d shown them the basics Eric and Nathan were naturals and had taken off with it.
When she wasn’t sewing, she was working on a little surprise for them. Like the coats, they knew about it, they just hadn’t seen the finished product yet.
She stood and braced herself against the doorway, drinking in the sight of her soon to be family. By the world’s standards, they were an odd bunch but the bond between them was very real. Yet, the world would only see an odd bunch, best case scenario.
She banked the fire and remembered the cruel words and accusations when she’d first had Sharlie in her life. Siah had never experienced the sting of racism until she had come north with a very tiny, very white, Sharlie in her arms.
She knew what the world would think when they saw the four of them together, what people would say. The boys were used to being gawked at due to their looks, but with her and Sharlie the gawks would be mingled with suspicion.
Something her grandfather had once said floated in her mind, “You have your mothers’ eyes and your father’s face.”
She went to the bathroom and really looked at herself in the mirror. He’d been right.
She slowly blew out a breath. As a child she remembered going swimming with some friends, wearing her hair in low pigtails. One of them had said she looked like a black Indian; the little brat was right, she did. She had put her hair in a ponytail or up do for years, trying to downplay her looks, trying to belong to one culture or another, but it hadn’t worked. By the time she had hit her late teens, she was sick of people asking, ‘What are you?’.
Around the same time, she’d realized, she had nothing to be embarrassed about. So, she was biracial. She could deal with it and so could the rest of the world.
She still favored swirly up- do’s, such as the crown braid she currently wore, which really brought out her blackness, but that had less to do with looks and more about safety. She was exotic looking enough without attracting any more attention, and going back and forth to the clinic the last few months had been too dangerous to risk flowing hair.
The idea percolating in her head scared her a little. It would just be a very- dramatic change. She studied herself closely. The square face, almond shaped eyes, the long low nose and sharp cheeks- the strong jaw that would’ve looked better on a man- she was indeed her father’s daughter.
The thick eyebrows, the hazel color of her eyes and wide full mouth were gifts from her mother. Her hair was a combination of both parents; thick with a slight texture similar to her mothers, stark black and stick straight even in the rain, like her father’s.
Her father’s side of the family was Mexican Indian with some Texas Yaqui Indian thrown in three or four generations back. Her mother, a black Puerto Rican woman, had been so light skinned she could’ve passed for white. Her umber skin was from her father, not her mother.
She tapped on the sink as she came to a decision- there was nothing she could do to look more like Sharlie, but there was something she could do to protect the boys.
She went to the back bedroom where they’d been stashing all their loot from the Storage units. She picked up her hair cutting kit and the package of hair ornaments they’d found before stalking back to the bathroom and slamming the door behind her.
She let her crown braid down, carefully combing out her course, straight hair until it fell down her back. She had allowed her hair to grow unusually long to be able to pull off the crown braid style. She hadn’t wanted to bother with extensions. The things were more trouble than they were worth.
She studied herself as she assessed what exactly she would do. Already, just letting her hair fall down behind her face changed her appearance dramatically.
It had been a long time since she’d worn her hair down.
She locked the door and slowly blew out a breath.
This was going to be a shock for all of them.
She’d never cut her own hair other than to do a few snips to keep split ends at bay but she was sure she could pull it off.
She was going to look like the pictures she’d seen of her paternal grandmother. She had died before she was born, but she remembered how she had worn her hair. Her grandfather had said that in her time it had been considered an unusually traditional style; while other women had gone to get their hair permed and curled, she had let it be straight, wearing it in an old-fashioned leather holder.
She remembered the defiant expression she held in that photo. She had looked like an Indian out of a western movie in modern clothing. Even as a naïve teenager she had thought she was seeing a tenacious spirit.
Keeping her grandmothers’ picture at the front of her mind, she picked up her hair and made the first snip. The more she cut, the more she knew- she had made the right call.
Finished, she pinned half of her now shoulder length hair up with the leather piece and the wooden needle it had come with. She then plucked her thick eyebrows so she had a less of a soft curve and more of an angle. She cleaned up and studied herself; her skin was darker, her eye color different, but she looked the image of a grandmother she had never known.
They had noticed Siah stalk from the bathroom to the bedroom to the bathroom again. He and Eric looked at each other and went back to what they were doing. When it came to bathroom stuff, Siah was on her own.
He was just showing Sharlie the finer points of how to assemble a Glock just like Manaen had shown them when Siah finally came out of the bathroom. Nathan felt his jaw drop when he saw her. Straight hair now fell back behind her shoulders and half of it was pinned back with some kind of leather thing.
He remembered to breath.
She had cut her hair? Why? And why had cutting her hair- changed- her- face? He turned to Eric. His jaw was swinging too.
She knelt on the floor in front of them. Sharlie ran up and immediately started playing with her hair.
“What do you think?”
“You, look, uhhh-” Eric stammered. He never stammered before they had met Siah.
“You look like us.” He blurted.
It was true. Somehow, having her hair down behind her face made her features more pronounced, her square jaw, her sharp cheeks, the long low nose- she looked- like- them! Like a dark skinned Indian! The leather piece holding some of her hair in place only emphasized her race.
“Why, why did you cut your hair?” he asked.
Siah scooped Sharlie up from behind her and ruffled her hair.
“There is nothing I can do to make myself look more like Sharlie.”
She looked at them both proudly.
“But I can make myself look more like you. This is me doing what I can to protect my family.”
He understood then what she meant. She didn’t just look Native American, she really looked like them. No one would think they weren’t blood related.
She was changing her very looks, for them…
She sat back, bracing her weight on an upturned knee, clearly enjoying their shock.
“You two have been very polite about it, but I think it’s time I explain my bloodline to you.”