I should be doing research for my dissertation but instead I am listening to an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, who I adore despite what the haters think. Her work on creativity resonates with me as does her outlook on life. On top of all of that she’s a damn fine writer and one of the female writing role models I have been cultivating over the past few years.
She is talking about art scars. This moment or process by which someone, usually a teacher tells you you are not good enough and you stop doing a certain creative thing. One of her friends stopped singing after a music teacher told him to mouth the words because he was so terrible. Teachers do this to kids all the time and they did it to me.
I’ve always been creative both in terms of stories and ideas and in terms of visuals. I can draw. It’s just there. I love craft time in elementary school and art class. In junior high I had one art teacher who liked me and believed in me. In watercolour I was included in a group of kids who got extra work because we were promising and once he forbade me from doing the easy option in an assignment. The other didn’t really care that I existed and gave me a you’re kind of shit vibe. It was confusing and I missed the old teacher.
In high school I got my art scars. I had a soul crushing life ruining art teacher who made me and many of my friends feel like we weren’t good enough. Unlike the teacher who encouraged me she forbade me from doing harder work even if I wanted to take on the challenge. She was the last nail in the coffin of the many voices that had always told me I was not good enough to be an artist and to go to art school. Like Gilbert says there were favourites but I was never one of them.
In grade 12 I stopped drawing. In university I was busy and didn’t have the time for it. It wasn’t something I thought about or missed. Fortunately unlike the man who stopped singing as a child and hasn’t since I got back into art. One day I was going through some stuff and felt guilty about having all these art supplies that were not being used for anything. I remembered loving them in junior high and how my mother never said no when I asked for them. I started drawing again to use up the supplies and it came back to me. I was good at it and I enjoyed it. Strange how that works out. Now I have plans to start an online store and to write and illustrate kids books.
Another one of my friends from high school who was also told by the same soul destroying art teacher that she was terrible sold several paintings a couple of years ago during a gap in employment. We both got back on our feet. That teacher could not have been more wrong or worse at her job.