Sunday, July 29, 2012
When I was about 11 or 12 years old my parents enrolled my sister and I in a Saturday morning art class at the local community center. I remember being excited at the prospect but then experiencing a sinking frustration at my lack of ability as the course progressed. My clearest memory of the experience was struggling to create a modeled drawing of a small whale statue that the instructor had brought as a prop. The small, smooth, black body of the whale sculpture was elegantly curved to suggest the majesty of the creature moving through the water and as I turned my pencil to the side to create a swath of shade along the belly of the form in my drawing I was struck that my masterpiece looked decidedly like a dog turd. At the end of the six week class we had a modest exhibition that our parents were invited to attend. The art instructor pulled my parents over to the section of wall where my sister's drawings were displayed and in excited tones gushed about her budding promise as an artist and suggest that they enroll her in private painting lessons with a fairly well-known regional artist. "And what about Annette?" they inquired. The art instructor politely informed them that there was a cheerleading class starting the next week at the community center. I duly enrolled in Saturday morning cheerleading, pom-pom, and baton twirling classes, all of which I failed miserably. Art lessons on Friday evenings were arranged for my sister. The artist who taught these lessons lived just six blocks from our home in a fabulous loft above a barn-style studio alongside a small creek and in the twilight of Friday evenings my Dad and I would walk Melissa with her portfolio of artist materials down to the studio. I loved the place and was jealous of my sister. The large studio doors were always flung open revealing a huge stone fireplace with a roaring fire. Still life vignettes of grasses, fruits and flowers lined the walls around six easels where promising students would carefully render their compositions. The smell of oil paint, wheat, musty water and spicy candles emanated from the room and quiet classical music was piped into the air. My sister would settle down at her easel and I would reluctantly turn away to head home with my Dad. Although I ached to soak in the romance of the painting studio on those Friday nights I was allowed a consolation prize because my Dad would take me home and let me indulge in an even more powerful romance: watching the highly anticipated weekly episode of Dallas on television. We would revel in the antics of JR Ewing, the charming villian who always managed to redeem himself (or at least snooker his gullible and tender-hearted family into thinking he had redeemed himself). And this takes us to the breaking news of the Red Rocket Report: the canine incarnation of JR Ewing has joined Red Rocket's home and family.