Sunday afternoons would find my dad relaxing in his favorite chair, the Chicago Tribune spread out on the floor in front of him. I’d be looking to get my hands on the comic strips—not to read them—I liked to sketch the characters. Doodling was a favorite pastime of mine. I didn’t see it as being a special talent because I thought everyone could draw. Real artists were supposed to possess vision and imagination whereas I simply copied what was in front of me.
Drawing relaxed me and was a pastime I continued into adulthood. My wife who was more of an artist than I, felt my hobby might benefit from some lessons. Unbeknownst to me, she signed me up for classes at a local art supply store. There I met Dorothy, the instructor who changed the way I viewed art, my talent and almost everything else in life. She urged me to focus and view my subject matter more candidly. She stressed the point that before I could draw, I needed to learn to see. Her encouragement led me to develop a passion for both pencil drawings and the music of Jackson Browne. I spent many a late night in the haven of both.
The town of Park Forest was hosting its annual art show and my wife and I were eager to check out the exhibits. Our kids on the other hand weren’t loving the idea. Seeing what they referred to as “a bunch of crummy paintings” wasn’t their idea of a day of fun. After failing to convince them that they might actually enjoy themselves, I had to play the dad card. I told them, “We’re going. Some of it may be good and some may be junk, but we’re going—so get in the car. ”
Once there our kids got into the swing of things. Seven year old Jacob started displaying a real interest in the artwork. He’d stop and study each piece as if he knew what he was looking at. Realism, Abstract, Post-Impressionism you name it, he took it all in.
One particular piece seemed to intrigue Jake. It was a unique style of elongation, similar to that of Ernie Barnes whose work was featured on the 70s comedy series “Good Times.” Jake stood quietly before it with his arms folded across his chest. He began massaging his chin between his thumb and forefinger as if evaluating the piece like some kind of scholarly art critic. I have to admit, it felt good to see my son showing an interest in my passion.
The artist was enjoying Jacob’s reaction to his work. He motioned to some friends nearby, calling their attention to this young boy’s fascination with this particular piece. They gathered around to watch. Like me, I’m sure they were all dying to know what was going on in Jake’s young mind. I winked at the artist as I put my arm around Jake and proudly asked, “What do you think of this one?”
Jake looked up. In a loud clear voice he said, “You’re right dad, some of this stuff is junk.” With that he walked off to the next exhibit leaving me to deal with the artist’s shattered ego.