A Glass Of Water to Drink

I know how to encourage other people. ” Believe in yourself. Don’t compare. You only have to draw what you see.”  I even quote Van Gogh to them. “If you hear a voice within you say „you cannot paint“, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”
― Vincent Willem van Gogh

But, I compare. I don’t draw like her, or him. My water glass does not look photo realistic. In my first year at art school, the foundation year. I took a drawing class. The teacher was half bald, walking down the other side of the hill, slightly stooped, with his head coming out of his shoulders at a 45 degree angle. His belly sort of hung over tan polyester pants. I don’t remember his name. I do remember what he said.  “You can not draw Pamela.”

The assignment was to draw a glass with water in it.  I walked over to Laura Fernandez’s desk and picked her glass of water off of her paper and had a drink. Her drawing was so realistic, I drank from it. Okay, I didn’t really do that.  But I wanted you to know that was how real it looked.

The teacher told me that I couldn’t draw. He gave my water glass drawing a C, and a C in the class. He suggested I not apply for the Graphic Arts Program at  the end of my first year. He would not recommend me for the program. That was the day I stopped believing.  I applied to the Weaving Program, and was accepted. And then the last day of class, I switched to the Photography Program.  I did not want to be isolated in a studio all day. I wanted to travel.

I found Laura on facebook last year and we are now facebook friends. She was a successful illustrator, one of the top in Canada. She is now a singer songwriter in Toronto, and a host of Radio Latino JAZZ FM 91 on Saturdays from 2-4. My cousin Byron  lives in Toronto. I suggested to him that he  go and see her sing.  He told me they were already friends.

This past weekend I was in Toronto visiting my cousin Byron.  Saturday morning, while we were getting ready to go out, someone knocked on the door. Byron was playing one of his original compositions on his piano, and couldn’t get to the door. “Pamela would you get the door for me please?”

And there was Laura.  The last time I saw her was 30 years ago. She looked the same. The same smile.  I told her the story of the water glass. We both couldn’t remember the name of the teacher.  She remembered that I was beautiful. I never thought of myself that way. I thought she was.  She has the same style of eye glasses, but wore contacts that day. My Spanish sister. We dressed alike in black long sleeved shirts. Byron gave me a wonderful surprise, and the gift of a renewed friendship.

No, I don’t have to paint like Laura. I have to paint like me.  I don’t seek the praise, or the rewards. I can live without an “A” from a teacher.  I won’t let someone else stop me from painting what is inside me.  And for good measure I will add one more quote by Van Gogh.

“I try more and more to be myself, caring relatively little whether people approve or disapprove.”
― Vincent Willem van Gogh


5 responses to “A Glass Of Water to Drink

  1. What an excellent story! I love the van Gogh quotes – I wish I learned about accepting myself sooner. Thanks for sharing, and enjoy your refreshed friendship with Laura.

  2. Strong and sure, as your writing always is. Great story. A reminder to me to always treat the work of students with the utmost tact and respect.

  3. Being told you could not draw wasn’t all bad. You got Nick and your projects out of the deal. I’d say that was a good trade.

  4. Oh this makes me think of our class and the student saying “I can’t draw.”. I wonder do you remember this story when you tell the students they all can draw?

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