I’m A Failure: Episode 1 – I Can Draw?

To say I’m at a crossroads in my life right now is a bit of an understatement. My current dayjob sucks and my prospects for something to replace it with aren’t much better. However, I do have this faint glimmer of hope that I’d enjoy an artistic career, but that’s easier said than done. I mean at this point I like to call myself an artist, mainly because I’ve tried a little of everything. I also like to think I have at least SOME ability in the fields I’ve been dabbling in, but for one reason or another, I just get burned in everything I try. Maybe things would work out better if picked something and stuck with it, I don’t know. But anyway, seems like as good a time as any for the sordid tale of my history with drawing.

A long, looong time ago, in an elementary school far away, a new student joined my fifth grade class. He was pretty good at drawing, but for whatever reason, one day I looked at a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles picture he was working on and decided “Y’know what? I can do that too.”

I don’t remember being particularly inclined to drawing any more than your average little kid prior to that, but from that day forth I set about practicing in my own little way. I don’t know if there’s a particular name for it, but what I would do is look at a picture and try to re-draw it freehand on another sheet of paper, but maybe make it bigger or smaller or unintentionally shift an arm a few degrees in one direction or whatever. Whether or not I was any good at this, or if that’s something worth being good at I can no longer say, but I kept at it.

Several years worth of doodles and sketches later, I got noticed for my art for the first time. At the Catholic elementary school I went to, there was some class project and while I can’t remember what it was for, I can remember being nominated to draw the class picture for it. Again, I don’t remember if it was my idea, or I was told to draw a cross on a hill with a cloth draped over it, but I do remember my initial giddiness fading when I discovered I had to use pastels to color the thing. I’d never really used them at the time, but I guess even back then, I still preferred linework over coloring something.

The cross turned out all right, and it was framed and put up on the wall for the rest of the year. And yeah, I was proud of it.

I kept at drawing after that, mainly monsters and superheroes and cartoon characters. Entered some local convention art contests, never won anything though. Don’t remember anything else of note until high school, when I went out of my way to make sure I had the all purpose art class, which lead to one of the fondest memories of my life.

One day the teacher said we were going to use charcoal for the days project. (Now if you’re not familiar with artisticy charcoal, at the time it was literally a chunk of slightly refined charcoal in the vague shape of a fat piece of chalk. And messy as hell. I don’t know if the stuff’s changed since then.) The project in question was a drawing, which I was happy about, even if I didn’t particularly like charcoal. And then she revealed it was going to be a portrait. Ooh, I thought, this could be bad. Then the teacher told us we would all be drawing the same portrait of one of the students in the class. And as luck would have it, the most attractive girl in the class was picked to be the model.

Yeah. Hot girl. Schoolgirl outfit. And she was going to be sitting still in a cute pose. And I was supposed to draw that?

For once, life was good.

So I planted myself at what I thought was a good angle and went to work. I did notice that everyone else in the class seemed to scatter to the worst possible viewpoints, but to hell with them. I was going to enjoy this. I finished the drawing by the end of the class and handed mine in with everyone else. I wasn’t paying attention to what everyone else had done, but I did notice that the model girl was eagerly checking out the drawings. And by the time she got to mine, some of her friends were standing around her.

And I waited.

Now I’m possibly elaborating a bit here (this was a long time ago) but basically, when she saw my drawing of her, her eyes lit up, she gasped, grabbed the drawing and turned around to show her friends, “Oh! Look!” she squealed like a… well… you know. “John Broken drew my portrait!” (No, she didn’t say my pen name back then, but you get the idea, yeah?) To my surprise, the grin never left her face while she showed the portrait to her friends. Of course I was smiling too, I never had anyone brag about something I did for them before, artistic or otherwise.

(While I’m editing this it occurs to me that you might be thinking the fond memory here was getting to ogle a hot schoolgirl for like 20 minutes without getting in trouble. That was nice, don’t get me wrong, but that wasn’t the highlight of the day as far as I’m concerned. The best part of the day was hearing the hot girl brag about the picture I drew. I’m pretty sure that was the first time in my life I ever got that level of praise from someone I wasn’t related to for something I did.)

Save for a good grade and a fond memory, nothing else worthwhile came of that drawing. But hey, I was proud of myself for once, so I’m not complaining.

Episode 2 next week!

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