When I look back on my long 23-year journey as an artist (I’m leaving out the first three years of life unless you want to count the abstract works I created in my diaper), there are many reasons for how I got here. I’ve had a lot of influences, took a lot of classes, and observed many, many works of art. I think one of the most influential reasons for my decision to pursue art and try and get good at it was Mrs. Smith.
Mrs. Smith was my third grade teacher. (Ironically, I also had her for eighth grade as well). I loved Mrs. Smith, because she was strict, but also very creative. And what a great encourager. I can very distinctly remember one time when she approached me about drawing a picture of Santa for the school newsletter. She figured I was a better artist than her, so she wanted to know if I would do it. Woah, back up the truck. Me, a third grader, better at drawing than my teacher, who in case I forgot to mention it, was a full-fledged adult? I couldn’t believe it. But she was so convincing, that had no choice but to believe it. It was my duty to perform admirably by representing our class with a drawing of Santa that would make Michelangelo drool.
Looking back now, I see that Mrs. Smith was probably a much better artist than me. Most adults know that trees don’t have green circles sitting atop their trunks, and that people aren’t normally bigger than their homes. And if I were to see that rendition of St. Nick today, I’d probably think it was beyond horrible. But that’s not the point. The point is, she believed in me. So much so that I believed in myself.
She always told me that I’d be a “famous” artist someday Luckily, I didn’t know then that most artists don’t become famous until they die. The encouraging words from Mrs. Smith, and from many others along the way, are the reason I’m still picking up a pencil to draw today. If they all told me I sucked, or even that I was decent but there was no reason to bother pursuing art, I may be selling widgets somewhere.
Indeed, selling widgets is about the worst thing I can imagine other than shoveling elephant dung at the local zoo. At least most widgets don’t stink.
But it was the encouragement that inspired me to work at it, pursue many different opportunities and eventually land where I am today – drawing funny pictures and loving every minute of it. How great it would be to inspire someone else someday in such a way.