Updated: Dec 18, 2020
Above is a picture of my first attempt at a mixed media painting. Its acrylic with oil pastels. Can anyone guess what the pic is of :-D ?
I know it’s not much, and you may think what I’m about to say sounds overly dramatic, but doing this painting was an act of bravery for me.
It’s only recently as an adult that I’ve wanted to learn how to really draw, to put pencil on paper and make something beautiful. I’ve always envied people with that ability, mostly because I never had the guts to try it myself.
Allow me to explain; when I was a girl, I was bullied. Those horror stories you hear about kids who were picked on and bullied and ostracized in school; that happened to me.
The whole time I was painting this, an unwelcome memory played out in my mind. It was fourth grade; the teacher wanted us to make a drawing of what we wanted to do when we grew up. Now at the time I loved drawing pictures, as most kids do. I still loved my crayons and I was proud of my new map pencils. Even though I didn’t have much time for the fun of coloring or drawing anymore because of the homework load I had every night, it was still something I enjoyed on the weekends. So when the teacher told us to draw a picture in class, I was thrilled!
Now at age nine what I really wanted to be was an archeologist. So I worked hard and drew a picture of myself as an adult, digging in the ground, unearthing a Bibley looking clay jar like I’d seen in pictures.
I remember being surprised the teacher wanted us to stand in front of the class to show our pictures instead of turning them into him. I was nervous. I was the kid everyone always laughed at, the one everyone made fun of for not being good enough at anything. But I thought I’d drawn a really good picture…
One by one, everyone stood in front of the class and showed their pictures explaining what they wanted to do. By the second kid, I knew I’d made a horrible mistake. I had drawn myself in my picture! Everyone else had drawn a car and said how they wanted to become a racecar driver or a rocket and said how they wanted to be an astronaut, no one else had drawn themselves! What was I going to do? I didn’t have enough time to draw another picture!
Too late, it was my turn, the teacher called my name. With greatest reluctance I walked to the front of the classroom, feeling like I was going to my death.
I held the picture to myself and took a deep breath. I remember looking at the teacher, hoping he’d change his mind. Maybe we’d be out of time and have to move onto a different subject. He just jerked his head to the front. I was disappointed but not surprised. This teacher was always telling me I needed to toughen up. I held the picture facing me until the very last second. I remember gulping as I stood at the front of the classroom.
“When I grow up,” I turned it around. “I want to be an archeologist.”
The second I turned the page around, everyone burst out laughing. I actually tried to explain what the picture meant, that I wanted to be an archeologist and what that meant.
“What is that?”
“Is that supposed to be you?”
“Why’d you draw something so stupid?”
“You should have made yourself fatter!”
I withered. I remember running to my desk, trying not to cry. My desk was against the wall, I remember turning into it as the tears came and everyone kept laughing.
I remember being at home later and taking my crayons and new map pencils I’d been so proud of out of my backpack and stuffing them in the bottom of a drawer. I swore no one would make fun of me for drawing ever again.
I did not draw another picture for twenty years.
Until one day I found a set of map pencils and some old drawing paper when I was cleaning out my house Marie Kondo style, (That’s another story), and I thought, maybe…
And I drew a picture.
I remember as I worked on that first picture feeling so scared. I remember breathing so erratically. I completely understand the fear agoraphobics feel when they go outside for the first time in years. That’s exactly what I felt like I was doing; I was stepping into something terrifying- but also desperately needed.
When I was finished with that first picture, I looked at it with a critical eye for a long time. Twenty years later I could still hear those kids laughing at me. But that was in the past. I wasn’t that child anymore.
I had finished my first drawing in years and no one was there to laugh. Nothing horrible happened.
I remember actually feeling relieved when I was done; like I’d been carrying a weight without even realizing it and now it was just gone. I even showed it to my mom like when I was little.
On the same cleaning spree I found the pencils and paper, I also found an old set of oil pastels. I didn’t even know what oil pastels were. I had to look them up. (It turns out they’re like a cross between crayons and oil paints.)
I used up most of those oil pastels on my first pastel painting and finished them off on my second. All I have left of the set is a few nubs. I look at the little box they came in sometimes and remember how far God has brought me.
That memory of being openly mocked, burned into me and made me afraid of ever allowing myself to be artistic again. I let the fear take over me. I gave into it for so long I deprived myself of something that could’ve brought me joy all this time.
When I was doing those first drawings and paintings I felt joy like I hadn’t felt since I was little, back in the time when I thought sunlight through a rain spattered window was beautiful and when I colored with my nieces and nephews.
Being an artist means having the courage to put a piece of yourself on display for the world to see no matter the consequences.
It’s funny how we can let bad experiences shape our lives. I let fear of being mocked keep me from many things that could’ve brought me joy.
God has brought me a long way since that day I wanted to shrivel and die at my desk. He’s brought me so far, he’s healed me of so much.
So now I’m praying that he will restore to me the years the locusts have eaten. I’ve decided to go back to school and go for a degree in Graphic Design.
Investing in yourself usually is scary.
For me more so.
I’ve been through an academic program before when I was in my late twenties and crashed and burned.
(That’s another story). It’s taken me this long to recover from that trauma.
It’s just a pre- requisite class that I’m taking right now.
It’s a small step, but it’s me taking my first bite of the snake.
(See my blog post, Bite the Snake).
My education is in your hands Lord.
Here goes nothing.