When I bought the sketchbook, I intended its pages for the drawing, a true sketch. A long-held dream, urged by a traumatic childhood memory.
“Draw a tree,” said the art teacher.
My ten-year-old self gathered a fat pencil and my Red Chief tablet, then followed my classmates outside. What a glorious assignment in early fall! To escape the classroom, breathe fresh air, and choose a tree to illustrate on the page.
I found a scrubby oak, its leaves just beginning to tinge with gold and the promised red. Felt its rough bark, then plopped onto the grass. Attempted to make my pencil obey and sketch my version of the Creator’s design.
We were given thirty minutes, and I used every second. Finished with a few eraser marks on the branches, a fading that mirrored the impressionism of Mary Cassatt. Would the teacher approve of my drawing? Would she give me an ‘A’ and display my sketch in the classroom?
I stood in line to present my art. Heard praises for others’ work. Anticipated my own positive review.
But the teacher took my drawing, stepped back, and laughed. She showed my classmates what I had done and invited them to laugh as well. The derision, the rejection, underscored by her words, “You will never be an artist.”
Six decades later, I sat at my desk, attempting once again to draw a tree in my new sketchbook. Stuck in the childhood voices, the judgment of a woman who should never have called herself a teacher.
Instead of a drawing, words appeared. A journal entry. Bullets releasing my anger. First pages of a novel. A blog post.
And I realized how that teacher failed to see the broader picture — the full aspect of art.
For my canvas is the page, whether handwritten or typed. My masterpiece is the completed book, published and holding space on a bookshelf. My compensation lies within monthly royalties that prove artists succeed in multiple media.
The artistry of words may not look like a tree. May not hold its place in a gallery. But its impact travels around the world to globally touch hearts.
My sketchbook holds phrases inspired by the Creator as I whisper to that now-deceased teacher, “You were wrong. I am an artist. An artist of the written word.”
©2024 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved
Image by Stock Snap / Pixabay
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