I asked each of my daughters to go through their stuff and set aside anything they wanted to keep. They did so, and I’ve been assiduously shoveling the rest either into bins for Volunteers of America or the trash. Included in those things were a number of fine drawings, but since they didn’t want them, I didn’t feel the need to override their wishes.
Then my husband came upstairs with three drawings of mine. The two nudes were done when I was sixteen, and I had thrown them away. My father overrode my wishes and saved them. I’m glad he did. I’d forgotten about them. Now I wish I had an “undo” button on tossing out so much of my kids’ work.
I look at them today and wonder how the heck my dad—who taught me to draw and paint—could have discouraged me from going to art school. The hands are awkward, because I’d never yet taken a life-drawing class, but the overall modeling and measuring is pretty decent for a teenager.
Instead of art school, I did meaningless work until I rediscovered my calling in my late thirties. I’m more successful as an artist than I ever was at anything else. (I might be bitter about the wasted years, except that they are never truly wasted.)
The third drawing is something I did at a restaurant in Colorado in 1982. My husband and I, coming from New York, were shocked at how common obesity was in the Rocky Mountain State. Now, I look at that drawing and think the people in it are not really all that fat. That means either my awareness has changed, or people really have gotten heavier in a hurry.
It also reminds me of the arrogance of youth. Inside every heavy person is a thin person who wonders how he or she ended up this way. I was thin until I had cancer. To be perfectly honest, I had a very supercilious attitude about weight. Since it wasn’t hard for me to keep fit, I presumed that those who didn’t were lazy. I’ve often thought my post-cancer weight gain was my penance for that awful attitude.