Posts Tagged ‘Booker T. Washington High School’

Getting My Bell Rung by a Fifteen-Year-Old’s Still Life in Oil

April 12, 2013
Still Life in Oil, by a "gifted" student

Still Life in Oil, by a “Gifted” Student

There are moments in our lives, there are moments in a day, when we seem to see beyond the usual–become clairvoyant.  We reach then into reality.  Such are the moments of our greatest happiness.  Such are the moments of our greatest wisdom.

It is in the nature of all people to have these experiences; but in our time and under the conditions of our lives, it is only a rare few who are able to continue in the experience and find expression for it.

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit 

Last Wednesday afternoon was a quiet and serene one that found me sprawled across my bed, working on school assignments.  In the midst of the stillness, a text suddenly chirped in on my phone.   I was surprised by a message from my private art student from last year.  Since the Spring of 2012, I had gotten occasional messages from her mother concerning her progress in her new school.  But I had always wondered about the young student’s work, if she was happy and thriving.

For those of you haven’t picked up these stories from last year’s blog, let me fill you in with a quick sketch:  As a ninth-grader, this girl had been attending a private school in my vicinity.  I  was referred to her in December 2011, as her parents were looking for someone to coach their daughter in pulling together a portfolio.  She was making application to the prestigious Booker T. Washington School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas.  They had been told that only one tenth-grade student from outside the area would be admitted.  The girl was an extremely gifted artist, but needed a portfolio of approximately 25 works to present as a part of the application process.

For four months, I had the privilege of working with her, and was astounded every week by her ability, her focus, her eagerness to pursue new avenues, and her never-ending drive to create art.  I saw her come into the studio, physically weary from soccer practice.  I saw her weak from allergies.  I saw her stressed from all-night preparations for exams.  But one thing I never once saw in her was a lack of enthusiasm to draw, to paint, to design, to question, to push into new frontiers.  Her energy and skill seemed boundless.

This young lady showed facility with pencil, charcoal, pastel, ink, watercolor, clay sculpture, and ultimately, oil painting.  I posted paintings in earlier blogs that she had done in oil, from figure studies of ballerinas to self-portraits, looking in a mirror.  I watched her go after oil without preliminary charcoal sketching–she went at the canvas with a brush, loaded in oil and turpentine, and applied the sketchy wash with confidence.

She was accepted into Booker T. Washington, and that was the last I saw of her.  I was thrilled at her accomplishment, and sorry to see her leave my studio.  Her work and dedication had truly fueled my inspiration, and I never stopped thinking about her over this past school year.

After a year of silence, she texted me last Wednesday, to notify me that two of her pieces had been selected to hang in a gallery show at the Booker T. Washington School, and the reception was the next night.  How could I not be there?  The next day, I left immediately after school for Dallas, and spent the afternoon bathed in the sunlight of the Dallas Museum of Art sculpture garden (the museum is on the same street as her school).  It was a delicious four hours.  I read from Mark Rothko’s The Artist’s Reality: Philosophies of Art.  I enjoyed coffee and salad from the museum cafe.  I wrote in my journal.  I breathed in the spring breezes of a 70-degree afternoon.  And I reflected on all the hours of pleasure I had once known, watching this young girl grow in her knowledge and pursuit of the visual arts. She reminded me of myself when I was in high school.  I could not get enough art from my daily classes.  I would come home and arrange still objects on my desk, adjust lighting on them, and draw them in charcoal for hours.

Once the reception time arrived, I walked down the sun-washed sidewalks along Flora Street until I arrived at the school.  Entering the gallery, it didn’t take me long to find her work.  I recognized the “signature” of her brush work from twenty feet away.  The magnificent oil-on-canvas still life posted above filled me with awe and delight.  The light and reflections off the objects made me feel as though I were gazing at a Jan Vermeer painting, I was that mesmerized.  This girl has not yet turned sixteen.  I cannot imagine what she will be turning out by the time she is ready to enter the university.

Her parents were as gracious as I had known them from last year, as was her younger brother.  Together we admired her work, taking pictures, and perused the other pieces in the expansive show of student work.  Then we traveled across the street to an Italian restaurant where they treated me to dinner and splendid conversation.  We unknowingly closed the place, hours later.  I felt that we had just gotten started in conversation.

I close this post by saying delightedly that I am being reunited with my former student.  She and her parents have expressed the desire for us to work together again, and I can hardly wait.  I have never had a student such as this in my creative environment, and I am proud beyond words.  How funny that I myself returned to the still life genre in watercolor, having not touched it since I myself was in the tenth grade.  I have found endless fascination in the subject matter, and was wishing recently that I had someone with whom I could discuss these dynamics.  It’s going to be interesting, seeing how she pursues her studies in oil while I continue to figure out the dynamics of watercolor.

Thanks for reading.

P. S.  I am almost finished with these #!$$%!$$#%#!%#! taxes!  When I lay them to rest, I will finally get after that vintage tackle box, chock full of brightly-colored lures!  My watercolors are crying out in neglect from the Man Cave nearby.

I paint to remember.

I journal because I am alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.