I Continue My Talent Search
Mom encouraged her daughters to find and pursue interests. We obliged: Carolyn walloped home runs; I walked barefoot on hot asphalt; and Barbara charged a fee to those who wanted to sit by her on the school bus.
I sensed Mom had hoped for more, so I decided to become an artist like my dad.
For as long as my siblings and I can remember, Dad drew a stylized chicken. With admirable consistency, he sketched a side view of a tall, skinny rooster with a long neck and prominent wattle. Its beak gaped wide and dripped exactly three drops of drool. The word “Eek!” also escaped, written three to seven times, depending on Dad’s whimsy and the chicken’s mental state.
He shared his talent with us by leaving small scraps of paper with his gaunt rooster here and there around the house: beneath a doily on the piano, tucked into the toothbrush jar, or slipped inside a book. (As an adult, I once found a seven-eek chicken in my medicine cabinet after Dad visited. I chose to think it was not a comment on my cooking.)
Admiring my father’s skill and persistence with his art, I decided to discover a topic of equal interest for my life’s work. Having recently read The Secret Garden, I set about drawing pictures of a gate in a crumbling brick wall adorned with gracefully twined roses.
I practiced until I achieved consistency, and then entered my crayon painting in the school art fair.
I expected a blue ribbon, but received a note suggesting I work on proportion. When I asked my teacher what proportion meant, she replied that my huge roses were too big for the wall; it looked like a fence made of tinker toys supporting pink cabbages.
The next Christmas, I asked for book on sketching. Santa delivered. The book started with step-by-step illustrated directions for drawing people’s heads by using a circle for the head and smaller circles to mark the placement and size of each feature before filling in the details. Chapter two explained how to use the circle technique for bodies and clothing. Then came chapters on animals, houses, and outdoor settings; all hung on a series of circles.
A year later, I was still on heads.
I was rescued from my fruitless pursuit when my youngest brothers exercised their artistic abilities by scribbling my book with orange crayon. I shrieked and complained, then gave up on art and decided to be an Olympic runner.
But I continued to feel an artistic bond with my father: to this day, whenever a raindrop hits me, I picture him in heaven—carefully drawing an emaciated, drooling rooster—and tucking it away for me to find later.
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