Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Death of a Dream

I loved art as a young child. While my classmates were scribbling pictures, I was coloring in one direction and in the lines creating masterpieces that drove my peers to jealousy.

I recall one picture I did for my grandmother when I was about 5 or 6 years old that was probably one of more creative pieces. I removed the plastic insert that held the chocolate in place from a box we’d just finished. I cut out two connecting holes, pasted them on a piece of paper and drew an owl using the chocolate container holes as eyes. My grandmother thought it was so ingenious she had it up on her refrigerator until she died.

No matter the art project, I had displayed great talent. In the sixth grade, I won first place for a swan I created out of ceramics. It is the only first place I’ve ever received. It now has a chipped wing and a line on its neck where it once lost its head when it got in the way of a flyswatter vs. fly battle, but it sits on my bookshelf today in reminder of that moment.

My talent was natural born since both my sides of the family draw and paint. I figured I’d be an artist when I grew up. I thought that until I entered the eighth-grade and Ms. Smith’s class.

I was excited to take a real art class and develop my talent. Our first project was constructing a decorative maze shadow box. I had a heart in the middle with a diagonal line on each side representing the entrance and exit. After the box was constructed, I covered the walls with construction paper and designs—colors and designs that were supposed to be my choice.

Well, it should have been my choice as it was my project. From the start, we had to get “approval” for everything we did from Ms. Smith. You couldn’t progress to the next stages without it. First it was the maze layout, then the color choices and designs. When I was done, it became her project. I was just the fingers that cut and pasted it together. My creativity wasn’t important to her, it was all about her and what she thought I should make.

Creativity and fun were abolished in her class. I found myself sniffing the rubber-cement glue just to get through the agonizing 50 minutes of each daily class. When I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did.

One day she reassigned our seats. I moved from the front corner to the very back of the room. When she explained her seating assignment choice, I couldn’t stop crying.

“All the people that are in the front sitting around me show great talent and are real artists. Those in the middle are just that, middle talent. And for those of you in the back, you’re D and F quality.”

OUCH! I’d never considered myself a D or F artist. Who grades art anyway! Isn’t’ it supposed to be a fun expression of ourselves?

Our next project was a prisma-color picture. Prisma-color is a fancy colored pencil at a fancy price. I chose a unicorn and was impressed with how well I was doing. Ms. Kill-Joy on the other hand didn’t like it.

After the pictures were done, she hung them in the hallway for the whole school to view. At grading time, she took us out individually into the hallway and discussed the “great-aspiring artists” adorning the wall and then brought us over to ours. She was comparing what others had done with what we had done.

By now ¾ of the school year was done and I was deflated. I had to listen to her drone on about Chad’s eagle and some other pieces. She asked me, “What grade do you think you deserve?”

What I wanted to say was, an A because that unicorn was my personal best. I learned so much and I was proud of what I accomplished.

With my self-confidence under the floor tiles, I ended up telling her, “I think its C work.”

I ended up taking the picture home hating it. It got buried over the years in drawers and boxes, forgotten. It got scuffed and dirty.

I took another art class in High School and walked away with an amazing watercolor for my mom and for my grandmother. But my enthusiasm wasn’t there any more. I never took another art class. I even quit drawing and painting.

I’m looking at that unicorn picture now on my desk and think, what an amazing job for a fourteen year old! Just think if she would have instructed me and helped me develop my talent instead of telling me I wasn’t good enough.

I allowed one bad teacher to poison my passion for art and convince me that I’m not an artist.

Are you following your dreams, or have you let someone like Ms. Smith influence your dreams and passions? Don't let other people influence your dreams. They're your dreams. Live them to the fullest!

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