Posted October 18, 2010on:
Would Trang believe me if I say I used to win prizes for my artistic talents, specifically drawing, when I was in grade school?
But I did!
I never knew I could be “artistic” until I entered 6th grade in the US with only a handful of English words to express myself. Just as I never knew anyone could consider me mathematically advanced until then. Apparently math and art helped me cross over the language barrier the first few years in the US (athletic strengths, on the other hand, never improved, but I’ve heard that it worked for others).
Back then my class had one of those early model computers with the green screen and educational games that made me add up numbers or subtract them or multiply/divide them. My teacher gave me and Masanori (the other “gifted” math student who also didn’t speak English) full access to the education computer; and as boring as the math problems were, it was more boring to have nothing else comprehensible to do. No wonder Nori and I continued to get even better at math. But there was only 1 computer, so I had to figure out a way to kill time when Nori was on it. So I started copying pictures from books and then coloring them. What I lacked in raw artistic skills, I made up with my color palette. My colors were vibrant and lively, with great contrasts. So pretty soon, Mrs. Carson came by and exclaimed, “WOW, Linh, did you do this? All by yourself?” Seriously. These Americans had such low expectations. My older brother Huy was already mixing watercolor and painting beautiful ducks in some imaginary lake at 8, I hardly considered my exercises to be worthwhile until Mrs. Carson declared them so. After that, many of my art works covered the back cabinet of the classroom. And some things got entered into a contest that may or may not have won me prizes, I can’t remember now…
That’s how, in 7th grade, I suddenly found myself in Mr. Beal’s the art class with the [then] Lily Wu (currently Megan Wang). Known for being the strictest and sourest teacher all around, Mr. Beal was abrasive and intimidating to everyone, but somehow endearing to us. Because Lily and I were his pet students. (Megan continues to pursue her artistic endeavors to this day). Megan was better at technical skills (because, you know, she was actually artistically inclined, heh heh) whereas I continued to make up for my lack of skills with colors. Thing with me drawing is, I truly lack artistic imagination. I can imagine plenty of things and see them so well in my mind, I am not talking about that. But whereas I see an actual 2D picture and can replicate it onto paper bit by bit, I have no clue how to go about rendering what I see in my mind into 2D, or even rendering 3D scenery into 2D. Yet, I steadily won prizes throughout 7th and 8th grade, of course with my teachers submitting my pieces, because I was pretty much clueless in school. (I was so clueless in school that the notion of grades never registered in my head until mid year of 9th grade, where I went, “wait a minute, what’s this GPA thing? How does it work?” I just sort of knew I got mostly A’s in my classes, but I never thought much about them).
High school came, and once again, I found myself in yet another art class (Ms. Dunn, I think, was her name). No one ever bothered to talk to me or my parents (maybe they did send a request and my parents didn’t come? Who knows) regarding these elective classes. I just woke up one morning with my school year’s schedule and went, “oh, art, ok.” This time i didn’t shine so much in the class anymore, except in one instance, where the assignment was to replicate some architectural structure using the perspective technique, you know those angles and squares. I’m pretty good at that, because with all the grid lines, it was super easy. I won 4th place in something, possibly my Romeo and Juliet poster, colored in eye popping candy yellow and sporting a juicy blushingly pink rose. Never forget to add aquamarine to such combination. And green.
Ha. Who made up my class schedules those years? They must have looked at my drawings and thought, “Now here’s an artistic soul, she must like to draw a lot, let’s have her take art. Again. And again.” It wasn’t till my family moved to Covina High and someone actually said to me, look, you have 3 electives and what it means is you get to choose what subjects you wish to take… That was when I put an end to all those art classes, once and for all. Never to draw again.
Maybe I should have persisted. Now May thinks I’m God and can draw ANYTHING. And I’m like St. Exupery’s elephant and boa constrictor, except I can’t even draw that. I can do a Jesus fish. Ice cream cone. Flower. Star. Leaf. Boat, which May looked for quite a few seconds, and hesitantly said “hm…” Butterfly. Elmo, which was recognized as “frog” first, then hesitantly self-corrected to “momo.” You get the idea. I can’t draw to save my life. Maybe I should buy some of his books.