Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Sometimes life gives us a small window to do something rewarding. In my mind I see a little girl opening up a window, and a small bird flying in, sitting on the window sill with its head cocked, as if to say, "What are you going to do with this now?"
This window opened in a phone conversation with a friend when I heard that her 12 year old would stay for a few weeks at her grandparents' place. The latter live in my area. A month before, I had seen some of the artwork of Alley, and had been impressed with her sense of color and form. There are thousands of talented 12 year olds, but not all will take the opportunity to develop their talents.
My own 5th and 6th grade time were one of the most transforming periods in my life. I lived in a small fisherman's village and my parents decided that the school was lacking. When 5th grade began, I went by bus to the "city" to a new school. During art class, I sat next to Leslie. Leslie had an older sister, attending the art academy.
One time she asked me, "Do you want me to teach you to draw a face?" I responded, "Sure." She then showed me the basic places for the eyes, nose and mouth.
At my own house, there was no visual art on the wall. No paintings, or even photographs that I can remember. I drew and drew and drew faces, faces, faces.
This extended on into my high school years when one of the art teachers asked me to draw the head of Zwingli (a contemporary of Calvin). He needed an illustration for a book, but had "no time" for it. When I gave him the drawing, he handed me some money. "Here, get yourself an ice-cream."
Needless to say, I could buy much more than an ice-cream for it! This was my first commission, which became possible because my friend in 5th grade taught me the basics.
My own experience has etched in my soul the importance of inspiring and teaching others. They might even run few more miles than I will. Inspiration works like adrenaline.
After asking Alley if she wanted to work in oil or watercolor today, she responded that she had all these oil tubes at home, but she did not know what to do with it. She was eager to learn something new.
I opened the front door and asked, "Is there anything you see you like to paint?" She choose a complex tree with red blooms across the street.
When sitting on her little stool, I taught her how to do a value sketch from a plein air scene.
I had the right hunch about her, because one of her comments was that she "likes a challenge, otherwise it gets boring."
Alley's story began several years ago, when I with a fellow artist organized the first art show in the well know Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena, previously the home of the Pasadena Symphony orchestra. I did the legwork of inviting the participants, because my friend was working on his MFA.
Amongst the adults, four people under 18 years of age showed their art work. Alley, only 7 years old then, handed in a simple drawing with colored pencil, on lined note bloc paper. Somehow I, as well as my fellow organizer sensed her passion for art, and we gave her "painting" a place in the show.
I taught Alley how to take care of her brushes the simple way, by swirling dish washing liquid in the palm of her hand, till all the color of the paint has disappeared.
Why I allowed that window to open was because not only is her mom single, but she has battled vertigo for about 8 years, after she had been in two car crashes. She should not even have been alive, but now is not able to work at an official "job", so I knew they had to live frugally.
After four hours her grandmother picked her up. I could tell that Alley still could have continued with painting. Now that is the passion of an artist, whether he or she is 12 or 120 years old!
I saw the potential of a little masterpiece, propped up with newspapers, glistening with wet oil paint on the back seat of the car, when I waved goodbye to the two of them.