When I was little my parents indulged my flights of fancy when it came to classes and sports. I tried various types of dance (ballet, tap), various sports (baseball, soccer) and other types of activities. They discovered early on that I got bored or frustrated easily with almost everything I tried – except art. I always stuck with my art classes until the bitter end and then begged for more. Drawing, painting, sculpting – it didn’t matter. If I was allowed freedom and creativity I was in.
Art was my saviour in grade seven and eight when I attended a religious school and was horribly bullied. Through art and poetry I gained the favour of a wonderful teacher and made it through to high school with my creative confidence intact. Though everything else was shattered through her support of my art and writing I knew, at least, I wasn’t completely worthless.
Outside of school I explored many different types of art but it was cartooning and animation that peaked my interest. I loved anything Disney and dreamt of one day working in their studios. When The Lion King came out I saw it many times in theatres. One particular time I was so overwhelmed during the opening I began to cry. “What’s wrong?” asked one of my friends. Through tears I sobbed that I wanted to be the one to make something so spectacular.
I drew comics at home. Mostly detective comics with anthropomorphic dogs and raccoons. (Dog City and TailSpin were on TV at the time). When I wasn’t drawing or hanging with friends I was watching cartoons on TV. While other teen girls drowned themselves in the drama of 90210 I was hurrying home to catch the latest Darkwing Duck. When Dawson’s Creek was in it’s heyday I was obsessed with Animaniacs. I loved animation. I lived and breathed animation.
In school I was exploring different media. I was trying to “say something” with my art but I never really quite got the gist of subtlety. Instead of something where the meaning is hidden through symbolism I usually painted dead whales to make a point about over-fishing. It worked but wasn’t really what the teacher wanted. Also I attended a high school where art was the lowest of the low. The Principal hated the arts (unless it was Drama which made him money every year with a show) and only thought English, Math and Science was useful. I’ll never forget being pulled into his office during his “talk” with the seniors about their futures. He sat me down and asked me what I wanted to do with my life. “An animator or a comic artist” I said proudly. He told me that it was a useless endeavor and that I should concentrate on math and get a real job.
My parents continued to support my quest for a better arts education though and outside of school I began taking classes that would ensure my entrance into the school of my choice.
One of those classes was Life Drawing. It’s important to learn to draw the human figure and the best way to do that was to draw them naked. They had to sign a release as I was only 16 when I signed up for my first course. I was to take my supplies and go to the local art center where I would draw a model on my own without instruction. Let me tell you about my poor 16 year old innocent virgin self’s first experience life drawing. It’s a doozy of a story.
So there’s about 8 of us in the room. A couple older ladies, a couple younger girls like myself and a few middle aged men. The model comes in. It’s a man. There’s a box in the center of all of us and he disrobes and climbs up on it. He’s posing with his arms crossed above his head and is standing tall. It’s a longer pose so we all get to the business of drawing this naked man. As time wears on I notice that the part I was trying so hard not to stare at is … moving. Rising, in fact. I stop drawing and the girls beside me start to giggle. At this point he’s got a full on erection and I’m not sure what to do. I mean…do I draw it? Leave it off? Draw a leaf? Then … all of a sudden … he SHOOTS IT. That’s right. He ejaculates. He still doesn’t move. I leave the room. So do the other girls. We go to the bathroom and start LAUGHING hysterically. I mean, none of us had even SEEN A GUY NAKED before that night and here we are getting a demonstration on ejaculation. One of the elderly women gets all huffy on our behalf and complains. I decide to leave and go home for the evening.
So yeah. Anyways needless to say I didn’t tell my parents about that particular event and I left the flying sperm off my drawings from that evening.
Ok, back to the original thread of this story.
I guess the point of this back-story is that I’ve always from my earliest memories had this drive to create. To do art. I dreamed big and thought I would, by this point in my life, be creating something for Disney or some other animation company. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I lost those dreams but I know that it was sometime during the downward spiral of booze, boys and drugs after my failure to get into Sheridan’s animation program. I guess I just gave up.
Sure, over the last few years I’ve done some stuff. My ability and drive to create comes in and out of my life depending on my situation. If I’m having a hard time with depression and anxiety – I just don’t draw. I put away that part of myself that creates.
I don’t know what kind of an artist I’m supposed to be. I don’t know where that fire and passion went. Perhaps the candle has finally been snuffed out because I just don’t know if I can draw anymore. I pick up a pencil and stare and stare and stare at that paper until I finally begin to shake with sadness and frustration. It’s like a part of my soul has been locked away and I’ve forgotten where I put the key. I knew once but now I forgot. It’s frustrating. And I’m sad that all those dreams, all those hopes – they are all gone.
I know right now I’m super busy and I know right now I’m suffering some PPD and anxiety and I know I created life and it was awesome. But something is bugging me. If I’m not Dee the artist…then what am I?
A part of my identity is missing and I don’t know how to get it back.