We were the Lincoln Lions. Incorporating a lion into the design would have been a good idea, however I didn't know how to draw lions. I did know how to draw Bugs Bunny. I had watched enough (probably hundreds) Bugs and Elmer and Daffy cartoons that I could clearly see the characters in my head!
I found a piece of thick yellow 11X17 construction paper--the only thing I had available at the time--and began to draw a roadster being driven by Bugs. The roadster was something I'd seen the rascally rabbit drive on TV, but only once or twice. I didn't have any comic books to reference so I carefully sketched and erased, sketched and erased, AND sketched and erased until the vehicle looked just right.
Bugs was easy. I positioned one of his white-gloved hands on the steering wheel. The other hand he held aloft as he waved. I positioned some of the other characters around the car and added lettering. I carefully shaded everything with colored pencils. As I remember, the entire endeavor took several nights of work. I was proud of what I'd accomplished.
A group of sixth graders served as judges for the contest. Their reaction to my poster? "It's good!"
You cheated, a girl named Donna told me. Her hands on her hips, her dark brown pony tail bobbed as she informed me that it was impossible for a kid my age to draw Bugs Bunny as well as I had. I couldn't have come up with the design, layout, or the positions of the characters, she claimed. "You traced it from a book," she concluded.
Thrust back into my trembling hands the poster suddenly felt cold and ugly. "It's on construction paper," I offered weakly, hoping she'd see reason in the fact that that the characters would have been impossible to trace.
She walked away.
I wanted to disappear and never return to school again.
I didn't see any value in knowing I had actually done the drawing, and that the other kids thinking it had been traced was--though they didn't realize it--a compliment. In my young mind, the girl's words meant I was stupid for entering the contest. I was not, I reasoned, an artist at all.
That evening I shoved the poster to the highest point of the very back of the deepest recesses of my bedroom closet. I never wanted to see it again. I never wanted to draw anything again.
Even now I remember how utterly small and worthless I felt under the glare of that sixth grader. In the many years since, every time I draw something those emotions still rustle through me. Even with an award-winning picture book out last year--a book that took me a year to complete because of my self-doubts--I still hesitate for a moment when I start to draw or paint or do anything artistic.
Am I good enough?
The point could be argued. One woman's art is another woman's, well, not so much art. Yet these past weeks I've had the privilege of meeting lots of children at my book signings--their faces light up when they see the illustrations. "You're the illustrator?" They ask with awe in their voice. To them I'm okay.
And the fact is I love to draw.
Last week I got a crazy idea. What if I did one quick digital piece each day and posted it here on the blog--one every day for a year?
Eugene Delacroix said, "Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything."
I'm going to continue to keep up the pace of my writing, and as far as art goes I'm going to shove the emotions evoked back in sixth grade to the highest point of the very back of the deepest recesses of my bedroom closet and just have fun!