Sometimes you look back and think about the people who had the greatest impact for good in your life. When someone sees something more in you than you see in yourself, they change your future.
I took Drawing 101 at Brigham Young University back in the 1970’s from a graduate student. Though I don’t even remember his name, I will never forget his gentle mentoring. At the time I was working several jobs to put myself through college. I had space in my schedule for one elective course and signed up for an art class
After the first assignment was completed on the first day of class, I compared my work to all the other students. I quickly discovered I was enrolled in an art class where everyone else already knew how to draw very well. Go figure. I guess they were all looking for an easy A. I, on the other hand, took the class to learn how to draw.
This teacher gave us a new assignment each week to complete outside of class. I was a hungry student and often experimented with my drawing homework. I found that trying to produce something with my unskilled hands that even came close to what I saw with my eyes and felt with my heart was difficult. Yet at the same time this attempt was a gentle lesson in awareness. Drawing required singular focus, time and patience. I had to quit “thinking” about drawing and allow myself see and feel everyday objects with new detail, appreciation and wonder.
This master instructor taught me how to view the world from a different perspective. For example he would crumple up a piece of paper, set it on a table and shine a light on it. Then he would ask us to draw the shadows - not the paper. Or, he would ask class members to draw two minute flash portraits of fellow students to force us to draw out and develop abilities untapped by our usual consciousness.
These drawing exercises allowed me to view my everyday surroundings in a fresh way for I was learning to pay attention to the intricate details of form, shape, light and shadow. I carried a pad and pencil everywhere and sketched whenever I had a spare moment. I began to more fully notice and appreciate the small and large wonders all around me - like tiny blades of dew covered grass or leafless tree silhouettes backed by a flaming sunset at dusk.
At the end of the semester, each student was invited out in the hall one at a time. Then we were asked to open our portfolio and told to display our work for the teacher. I placed my pictures side by side on the floor in the long hall next to our classroom and waited. The teacher slowly walked down the hall, carefully studied each picture then turned and looked me directly in the eye.
“Janene,” he said with a broad smile, “you are the only student in my class who has earned an A.”
I was dumbfounded.
“Why?” I asked confused. “Why are you giving me an A when everybody else in this class draws so much better?”
“Because,” he answered, “you are the only true artist in this class. The other students know techniques that reproduce camera-like copies. You are the only one who had the courage to fail, the only one who took risks, the only one who did more than I asked and the only one who explored your soul. You are a fine artist. It doesn’t matter what art form you choose after you leave my class – for I know you will bring light, life and beauty to this world all your days.”
This gentle teacher saw something in me I did not see in myself. I have lived a different life because his vision of me opened up a new vision of myself.