Tuesday December 3rd, I arrived at Northwood Elementary School. As I began to set up for a program that I was doing for Fourth and Fifth graders there was this huge wave of emotion that began to come over me. First of all, it was nearly sixty years ago I was one of these children that would be let out of class to come and hear a program by an artist.
For me it began around the age of eight. The dream of being an artist. I was in the third grade at Boone Trail High School in Mamers, NC. I had recently arrived in Harnett County when my Aunt and Uncles came to get me and my sister Elizabeth from a naval base in Newport, Rhode Island. At the age of 36 my mother had a massive stroke and her siblings stepped in to care for us.
Growing up on a tobacco farm in Mamers was quite the contrast to the naval base I had come from. But Aunt Kate adopted me as her own and for the next few years I was exposed to a humble yet authentic lifestyle.
Insecurities did arise but art was a vehicle that allowed me to escape and dream my challenges away. In third grade one of my teachers was so impressed with a crayon drawing I did of Mt. Fuji that she entered it into the NC State Fair. To my shock and excitement it won first prize for best art for my age. That was the beginning of it all.
From there art was always a tool that I used for extra credit in school. I would constantly illustrate and add drawings to my homework and reports. I was never gifted academically but art, oh yeah, that was my talent and I leveraged it for a lifetime.
"It just takes time, Honey"
That was my message to these young admires. The greatest teacher along life’s path are the mistakes you’re going to make. Each and every day when I paint, I stumble, back up, cover up and then out of the midst of many strokes and washes the images I create begin evolve. It’s magical but you can’t give up. So many times we are almost on the forefront of success, it’s just one more step away if we will persist. Another way put is, “It just takes time, Honey”. Those were sound words of advice from my mom. She was amazing, even after her debilitating stroke she persevered and had a wonderful life with many admires.
"Be a good listener"
My second bit of advice came from Pops. He was a 21 year naval veteran that recognized being a good listener was the forefront to moving ahead in life. How often do we give a glance during a conversation only to be preoccupied in our own world. Such a shame when we have the opportunity to glean from a mentor. It’s a valuable tip that I constantly remind myself to utilize.
"Remember where you come from"
Sound words from my Aunt Kate. Ah, how often do we want to forget our past. I know you might be saying I don’t want to look back on where I came from. I too had that emotions but we do need to put a stake in the ground and reflect. It helps to put life in perspective. Roots are important as we build our family and career. What was a challenging time during my early years led to one of my most popular books and film “Carolina Preserves”.
In conclusion as the students where leaving I was asking if they enjoyed themselves and what there favorite part was. A young lad in the fifth grade said "getting out of math class", that was my favorite part. I think I add honesty to my list as well!