I created at night in my quiet basement bedroom, in which my Dad had built a nice little desk area. I’d combine my love of listening to music with my fascination for doodling and painting. I’d spend endless late-night hours immersed in the vast and intriguing world of art and imagination.
These art sessions allowed me ample time, early in my life, to develop a sense of inner-self, time to really think about things, to explore what was going on in my head. Despite the obvious fact that I’m a very social person, I found through art the value of having a very private side. I think it taught me the value of talking with oneself, something that’s as important as talking with others.
Those first inklings of artistic talent surprised and delighted me as much as they did others. I knew as much as my folks did that this was something I should develop. So I certainly got the encouragement I needed. And that was good. Creating art kept me quite preoccupied, and that was good too, especially for my parents. My sketch pad was an inexpensive and reliable baby-sitter and they knew it.
Even in the first grade, I was getting requests from students and teachers to share my talent. “Could you draw a picture for the cover of my report on dinosaurs, Eric?” “Hey, Eric. we need some artwork for our classroom bulletin board, can you help us with that?” I liked doing projects like that, and developed confidence from the the recognition it earned me. And I guess a little pressure is good. It teaches you to set goals and crank out the work. But a lot of pressure a lot of the time ain’t good for nobody. Especially me. I like to relax every once in a while. It got to the point where it wasn’t fun anymore. The word spread that I was one of the best artists in the school, then the requests got out of hand. Even my enemies were trying to get my help. What nerve! Soon it seemed like I was always drawing for someone else, never for myself. At this point it hit me that perhaps I had something here. If so many people wanted my artwork, maybe I really did have a viable talent. Maybe there’s a future in this.
I figured it was time to “protect my products,” concentrate on what I wanted to draw, get selective about who I’d work with, and think about how I could use artwork to my advantage, and to the advantage of those I cared most about. It finally hit me that I had a valuable mineral in my own back yard, so I better stop letting anyone and everyone come over for weekly mining parties.
I learned the cruel, hard fact that people will take advantage of you when you have something that’s useful. Even if they mean well, it can strain your time and energy, so you have to draw the line (or in this case, not draw anything). Well, this decision didn’t sit well with some. The school nuns, especially, didn’t like my new-found discriminatory approach. “What do you mean, ‘NO’? We’d like your help with some artwork.” Well, sorry. I gotta start saying no to someone. I’m no longer everyone’s indentured artistic servant! I just took the “free” out of freelance.
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