My mom was an artist. She studied art in college and taught herself much more. She drew, she painted, she did beading and weaving. She liked very much to dabble. My mom, who spent much of her life suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, found an outlet for her pain through her art. Her disease fueled her creativity, and vice versa, in ways that I have only begun to understand.
When I was twelve, my mom bought me a sketchbook and sat me down at the dining room table. She put a cup in front of me and told me to look at it.
“Look closely,” she said. “See how the light hits it here?” she asked. “See this shadow?”
I did. As my mom broke the parts of the cup down one by one, I could see each part singularly. She taught me to notice difference.
“Now draw what you see,” she said, handing me her special charcoal pencils. She showed me how to use heavier and lighter pressure to make the drawing textured. She showed me how to blend, how to highlight with the eraser. She showed me how to re-create reality.
“Take your time,” she recommended gently. “Work on one part at a time.”
I drew slowly and carefully. When I finished, I had a lovely two-dimensional rendition of a mug, instantly recognizable. I’d like to think that I had real talent, but I think that anyone could break down a simple object like this and make something beautiful from it. In any case, I loved drawing. My mom’s lessons showed me the way to one of my earliest passions. I remember counting the days until art class, waking up early and full of excitement on Wednesdays and Fridays. Those were the days when I felt special. Those were the days when I got to do what I loved best.
My mom’s method of drawing was entirely rooted in the present. She taught me to be mindful, to make art a meditation. She taught me to overlook nothing. She showed me how even the simplest object can open you to creating beauty and can teach you a truth about yourself. It’s funny — you probably don’t think of drawing as a survival skill, but for me, it is.