Sometimes there is a difference between a keepsake and a memory. And the difference is defining which part you want to keep.
For example, as I have been cleaning and organizing our storage closet under the stairs, I found this self portrait I did while in Art College.
Not that the piece is that good or that it looks like me (maybe a little) but this artwork is more of a memory.
The story behind this drawing is a bittersweet one for me. I created it for a class with a professor who did not like me. I never found out why. But it was obvious. I had classmates even inquire as to what I had done. He was new to the school and new to me and I never found out his reasons. But I will admit he taught me a lot, just not about drawing.
The assignment was to create a self portrait on neon paper. I remember being excited about the challenge. Picking out a neon green board as my backer, I worked and reworked that image in oil pastels until I was so proud of it. And handed it in.
The class began with a critiquing session (where you sit around and everyone discusses each piece – usually a combination of negative and positive reactions). This professor was FULL of praise that day for the students who handed in stick like figures for their ingenuity and wit. Of course, this WAS college so I am sure some of it was more “running out of time because I was out too late” than it was ingenuity. But the point was, he was full of praise. A negative remark here or there but the energy in the class was positive.
Until it was my critique time and he found at least 34 things wrong with my piece. Not a single thing right was spoken even when my classmates tried to interject some, he counteracted. I was so deflated. I remember holding it together enough to leave the room and try to compose myself.
During our class drawing session this professor approached me on his own to point out a couple positives. I guess this was his way of smoothing things out. I remember that clear moment where I looked him in the eye and realized that whatever he said or thought or felt, it didn’t matter. I KNEW I had done my best, I KNEW it was good work. His opinion was JUST that. An opinion.
I remember that instead of staying silent and venting to my roommates after, I told him to his face how I deserved more consideration as a student than an offhand comment later to try to smooth over the obviously slanted critique. And then I let it go.
What did this teach me? That sometimes in life, people aren’t going to like you. And honestly it isn’t about you. And no matter how much you twirl, jump or dance to make them see you differently, it just may not happen. And that is o.k.
I never cared much about his class after that. I did my assignments, worked as hard as before, but didn’t hold any weight to his comments OR his grade. He already taught me everything he was going to teach me. There was nothing of value left.
What does this have to do with keepsakes? Well, the original drawing is a 16 X 20. Something I don’t want to hold on to as a keepsake. But I do want to keep the story, to remind me of how strong I can be.
So today I scanned in this drawing and framed it for my office. I won’t keep the original. Because this is not a keepsake. It is a memory.
And I guess even a lesson.