Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Self-Portrait of an Artist

So today we retrieved her portfolio from the school. Back at the house one of her art teachers visited and reviewed her submissions. She reiterated to my young artist that she has real talent. As I looked over the pieces, what jumped out at me were her three self-portraits, two of which are reproduced imperfectly here.

What popped were the expressions, captured in her eyes and lips.

When you know someone, as I do my youngest child, her moods and the depth of her feelings become familiar over time as much as her tastes in style or her preferences for foods.

The emotional journey every child is on intensifies in their teens.  It is rarely easy to be fourteen, for example.

As her teacher encouraged her to reapply for the second round of auditions, I saw her expression harden. Like the girl in the drawings, she is skeptical, and sometimes older than her years.

She has long since figured out that life is not always fair, that talent and merit go unrewarded more often than not, and that people, whatever they may say, do not always come through when you most need them to.

She knows that friends can disappear, and that dreams can be crushed.

She's a also a tough, competitive athlete who knows how to persevere. Today, a new plan started to take form, as discussed by her teacher, my daughter, and me.

Should she choose to not pursue the arts high school, she could instead continue her passion to draw and paint on her own, with her teacher, outside of any structured curriculum.

That might be a better path for the girl in the picture. The one who does not suffer fools gladly, who notices and remembers everything.

The one who sometimes forgives but never forgets.

The one who sees things and people as they are -- even, at such a tender age -- herself.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Art Or Not?

If you are going to try and pursue a life as any kind of artist, including as a writer, you're going to face lots of rejection, disappointment, and moments of self-doubt. Ultimately, even if you achieve success, you may end up in deep difficulty, without the means to support yourself or your family, and without more practical skills valued by the marketplace.

That is the brutal reality, both in this society and most others. What is tricky, for parents, is how to handle your children's dreams to be writers and artists, particularly when you've been able to ascertain that they truly do have talent.

My youngest was rejected by the School of the Arts, San Francisco's highly competitive public high school, for the first round of auditions just before Christmas. It fell to me to tell her this bad news long-distance, by phone, as she was traveling with her mother.

I know it was a crushing rejection for a 14-year-old who had spent the past year carefully preparing her portfolio of 12 pieces.

Since then, she has not been willing to talk about it.

The school offers a second round of auditions in March, if she wants to pursue that route toward a possible future acceptance.

What complicates her decision is the knowledge that this is partly about gender. SOTA, as a public school, has historically had a gender imbalance -- many more girls than boys. Thus the boys who apply have a better chance at a first round audition than the girls.

Thus most girls apparently are rejected the first time around, as a technique meant to sort out who is really committed and who is not.

But that is a lot for a 14-year-old to digest as she decides on a most difficult decision. In a larger sense, however, it is a perfectly accurate microcosm of what she will face should she decide to continue traveling along what Robert Frost labeled the path "less traveled."