He sketched it quickly. He was unsure. He's always unsure. I told him it would make a great project. He still hesitated. I refreshed him on my lesson on how to use charcoal and we set his goals for the project. I moved to the next student but watched him out of the corner of my eye, like I always do. I watched him questioning his idea. Again. Like he always does. And then I watched him produce a great project despite his self-doubt.
Inside I was screaming to the world, "See this kid. He gets it. He doesn't know it but he gets it. He's an Artist!" His brain formulates brilliant concepts. He can't see it yet. He doesn't know what he has. It comes so natural to him that he doesn't know how talented he is. As his teacher, I know that he still doesn't know how to manipulate his mediums fully. As his teacher, I know that he still needs classes to learn the technical skills. As his teacher, I know that he still has so much to learn. But as his teacher, I also know how rare it is to be able to see things as he sees them. He is brimming with concepts. He doesn't understand how many of us would love to be in his head. How many of us, who call ourselves artists, wished it came that easily. Anyone can learn to draw. Anyone can call themselves an artist and produce beautiful pictures (or shock value pictures). Anyone can sell art that people think is lovely enough to hang on their dining room wall. But original concepts are harder to come by. Art that makes you stop and question. Art that makes a statement. Art that can make you feel something that you weren't feeling before you stood in front of it. Art that shakes you a little and leaves you thinking about it long after you've seen it. That doesn't come naturally to all of us. That's what it is to truly be an Artist.
Yesterday, in class we were discussing our final projects. In my middle and high school classes, I ask the students to spend spring break researching art and artists. They have to find something that they feel is inspiring and create an original work in that medium and style. All of them had great ideas. One student is making a mixed media book of places she wants to travel to. A place for every letter of the alphabet. Another student is building two model cars. The same car, one a vintage model and another a current model. He's going to build a sculptural piece with the new passing the old. Another student is photographing the same ballerina from six different angles. They all had good ideas. I was very pleased and I'm looking forward to seeing the finished projects. When I got to my boy, he looked at his feet and said, I'm not sure I can do this. I told him to tell me about it and we'd figure it out. He wants to replicate the detail of the hands of Adam and God from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. But he wants to change it so that Adam's hand is old and decaying. He wasn't sure if he should do it. He worried that people would think he was being disrespectful or speaking in a negative way against God. I said, If that's not what you're doing, what is it that you're trying to say? He told me that he wanted to show the fact that man dies. That Adam didn't stay in the Garden of Eden, young and free. That he died, and now we all die. But that God still reaches his hand out to us anyway. He said that he was worried that people would see it wrong. (In my best teacher voice) I told him it was great idea. I told him that I didn't feel that it would be disrespectful. I told him that just because Michelangelo painted it, that doesn't make the subject matter holy and unquestionable. I told him not to worry about how people saw it. I told him that art should make you question the artists intentions and make people angry or happy or sad. He's still not sure he's going to do it. On the way home (in my best mother voice) I told him that I hope he does. I'd frame that.
He's better than me. I can't tell him that as his teacher. But as his mother, I know. He's better than me. It's a hard balance.