How I learned to paint again or how my little sister has more portraits of herself than anyone in the world
My youngest sister, Krista, has a part-time gig as my muse. Or maybe just a full-time position as a very annoying little sister who is tenacious and persistent. Either way it works enough to get me to draw things for her, and it eventually led to me painting again.
See, I went to a big-name, expensive, art college. I spent a lot of money on my education but I was very disenchanted with the entire experience. Its stupid really, because I carry that around with me as if it defines who I am, “Hello my name is Kat. I went to Art School and I hated it.”
But really, I was so confused as to who I was as an artist after school that I didn’t seriously paint anything for years. A lot of artists have had this same problem, and I just found this quote from Jim Hodges on another blog, Ullabenulla, where he describes exactly what I felt.
When I got out of graduate school, I stopped Painting because it was overwhelming and because I couldn´t find myself in the material. But I also stopped because I was forcing myself to be a painter because I thought that was what my education had taught me. I realized I had accepted a lot of belief systems that were not necessarily mine. From then on, it was just a slow process of deconstructing this education and breaking things down to simple words. And ‘beauty’ was one of them…. I felt that I was part of a long tradition investigating what beauty is all about—the mystery of it, the elusiveness of it. So, I set out to understand what that word meant for me.
The first piece I painted when I was jumping back into it was a very odd color explosion of a portrait of Krista. (We call her Roo.) Excuse the blur, its the only photo I still have of this piece. I ended up painting blue over the background and then I put it away for a while to think about painting. Because I tend to do that, sit and think about things when I should just be doing them.
Krista commandeered this piece while I was contemplating what it all meant… and then promptly demanded more paintings.
That isn’t the beginning of the story. I have three younger sisters. I’ve always wanted to be an artist, more specifically a Children’s Book Illustrator. When my sisters were very young I would make up stories and illustrate the interesting bits to entertain my sisters while I babysat. Roo, the youngest and my junior by ten years, was always the one demanding more, she was in fifth grade in 2005, and in love with the Harry Potter series. She was diagnosed with dyslexia early in grade school and reading, well honestly school in general, was very frustrating for her. I read the first Harry Potter book to her, and she fell in love with the characters, and absorbed the rest of the books in the series almost overnight. I told her stories about her as a Gryffindor student and illustrated the funny parts. The story was renamed Kerri Potter (It was called Kerri Potter after another sister of mine, uhm… Kerri. Genius, right?) She and her older sisters were always getting into trouble. . They never saved the day, and were always in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was completely goofy. My sisters loved the stories. Roo’s frustration with reading and learning faded a bit with each story.
These silly stories and comics were mostly inside jokes. I don’t think they could possibly make sense to anyone else, but isn’t that how inside jokes work? Like every kid who is having trouble in school, Roo would fight to get out of bed in the morning and actually get to school.
So I drew little comics on her brown lunch bag, to give her a little something extra to read at school. They were completely ridiculous but every kid at her lunch table grew to anticipate lunch time so they could read the newest Brown Bag comic. (No pressure on the artist there.) These two starred all three of my little sisters, Caitlin, Kerri, and Krista, in the Kerri Potter universe, pretending to be Jedi Knights with bananas as lightsabers.
See, silly inside jokes. But it worked. As long as I kept up the BBcomics, Krista kept bringing them into school… and of course if the bags were going to school, so was she.
Not all the stories and images were particularly flattering…I wrote a story/poem I wrote for her called, “My Little Sister Is A Goblin.” It went something like this:
My little sister is a goblin.
Just look into those beady little eyes of hers-she’s not normal.
She has sharp elbows, sharp knees, and rows of extra sharp pointy little teeth.
Take your eyes off of her for a moment
And she is gone.
(off spoiling the milk or knotting peoples hair or doing other Goblin-y things)
No doubt about it.
My little sister is a goblin.
She will eat your liver.
She will eat your liver for breakfast.
Its her favorite thing to do.
… and it goes on. The bit about livers sounds odd but that is what she would threaten to do when she was angry with you- eat your liver.
I’m not sure she knew where your liver was, or what it did, so I illustrated your liver as being a type of breakfast cereal.
After Harry Potter, Roo’s obsession turned to Pirates. Everything I drew had to be of her as a pirate.
This evolved into her as a pirate with a pet octopus or squid. I started making finished pieces for her, she started being old enough and responsible enough to take care of them.
And now she is a teenager. She draws her own pictures and writes her own stories. She is interested in all things creative, especially creative writing. She wants to be an author.
These are just a few examples. She has walls papered with examples of art pieces I’ll never be able to finish because she claims pieces from my sketchbook and from my unfinished piles for herself. She doesn’t take no for an answer. Which is fine, because I’ll be famous for portraits of my little sister… and I’ll make her draw pictures for me.