Thursday, February 10, 2011

Young at Arts

So, minor story from back in the day. (More back-in-the-day than usual, that is.) When I was 12 and in 6th grade, I was part of Art Lab. It was an after-school activity that let art enthusiasts spend extra time in our teacher's classroom. My older sister was doing it as well and being the bratty younger sister, I tended to be interested in whatever she was doing. She decided to enter the state-wide Young at Arts competition and on a whim, so did I. Out of 800 entries, they chose 50 pieces to receive the winning honors, hang in the Wang Center during the Christmas season and go on a regional tour after that. Plus we got to go to this big awards ceremony at said Wang Center (this is the home of the Boston Ballet and one of the coolest places in Boston) and I still have a certificate from the mayor, etc.

Well, one of the cooler things that happened in that contest was having the winning entries published in a little book with biographies and quotes from teachers and pictures of the winners and their teachers. I still have it sitting on my bookshelf. Once in a while, I'll pull out that little book and flip to my page, where I'm on the lower half of the page, with my painting, the media used, a quote that I never actually said and a really kind of adorable picture with Ms. N.

Ms. N was really good to me in terms of art. Rather than treat me as a flash in the pan, she encouraged me to continue competing and creating. She wrote one of the recommendations that got me into Interlochen for the camp, which is why I spent 6 hours a day playing violin and 2 hours drawing or painting. When I came back for 7th grade, she pushed me in the direction of Young at Arts again and gave me my own corner of the art room to hang new drawing paper so I could work on that year's entry. I didn't have to do the other class assignments. It didn't win Young at Arts, but it did take 3rd place in the Boston Globe Youth Art Competition.

I look back at those two years and the love of art that I still have and am immensely grateful for having a supportive teacher like Ms. N who basically let me flourish my own way as long as I didn't disrupt things and got her coffee from the cafeteria. I'm sure I would have kept drawing if I hadn't had Ms. N, but I probably wouldn't have entered the art shows that I ended up being featured in and I definitely wouldn't have been the person in my family who went to the Louvre with a sketchbook. She was a very powerful force for good.

On the other hand, I look back at that painting, City Life in Tainan. It's an India-ink adaptation of a photograph that I'd taken from our hotel windown in Tainan, Taiwan when I was 9. There's Coca-cola signs, a pagoda in the background, a lot of shops and even a cyclist in the midground. There are crooked lines and there's a car in the lower right-hand corner that is in a very different position in the original picture. While the colors are vibrant, I couldn't keep them evenly spread.

I can imagine that the judges looked at the mottled sky and mistook my uneven hand for attention to coloring. They might have even thought of this painting as abstract in some way. I don't know. I just know that looking at the rest of the winning works that year, I definitely wonder how I made the cut.

I feel that way about writing. RR, the publicist/friend/workout buddy, was at a party with me the other night and she spent a few minutes gushing to a complete stranger about my book again. This was on the same day that I'd looked at the Young at Arts publication and I started thinking that maybe she didn't get it. After all, this is the person who compared Alex to Umbridge. I am so grateful for her support, but wonder if I'm going to look back in 17 years and think that maybe everyone thought I meant something different.

That also reminds me of Trey Stokes, as many things do. As I might have mentioned before, a lot of the conversations I had with him consisted of me asking a detailed question and him admitting that he hadn't looked at that angle. For example, me wondering which god Stacey is referring to when she says Omigod. Or when I laughed at Yoda's good influence in Stacey not swearing for 1/3 of Return of Pink 5 and he commented that he hadn't done that intentionally.

Another example, back on my side of things, is Lest Ye Be Judged. It was an extremely dark story, but people kept laughing at posts and I'd go back and realize that I'd given Vader a sense of humor in that one scene. It mystified me how I could fail to notice that kind of thing.

SO maybe the people who think that I'm doing a good job are being too nice or not really seeing the flaws. Or maybe I just haven't read it from an outsider's perspective.