I stepped into the room and paused to look around. The tall thin red haired lady standing in front of the tables was talking, “Good morning class. Please take your seats. My name is Mrs. Fields and this is Senior Art – 3rd period Art.” She turned to the blackboard and using the sleeve of her blue sweater reached up and rubbed out the 2 where had been chalked ‘2nd period ART’. She used the chalk in her other hand to replace the missing 2 with a 3. The board now read ‘3nd period ART’.
I grinned and looked at the schedule in my hand, then I took a seat at one of the peripheral tables. Mrs. Fields was a friend of my dad. In fact she had been at my house for dinner last night and my dad had barbequed what seemed like half a cow. She was still at my house for breakfast this morning. Mrs. Fields was a widow and she spent the night with my dad at least a couple times a week. I think it calmed her nerves.
My dad had exhibited a lot of her work in his gallery over the years. She was a phenomenal watercolorist but chose to work with found objects as her primary medium instead. The resulting portfolio therefore, consisted of a lot of rocks, sticks, and cans glued together; collages; and altered ‘Barbie’ art. Very avant garde; weird but strangely compelling. She was kinda hi-strung but she was tall, she was thin, and she was just my dad’s type. Because we have thin walls in our house I also knew she made a lot of noise in bed.
She looked over and noticed me, “Good morning Walter,” she said. “How’s your dad? I haven’t seen him in a while.”
“He’s just fine ma’am. He sends his best.”
She nodded and started organizing, “All right class; let’s get right into it, shall we? Everyone go over and take one sheet of watercolor paper from the front table – take any size you like. I also want you to get a single brush, a dish of water, and a single bottle of the acrylic. Grab a color you like, but only one. Then get back to your tables.”
We all did as instructed. I had found a pointed Chinese brush with a bamboo handle, a pot pie tin for water, and a sea foam green bottle of paint that was still about half full and not dried out.
When everyone had collected their ‘Art Paraphernalia” and been reseated Mrs. Fields started talking again. “I want each of you to paint a self portrait on your paper. You have…” she glanced at the school room clock on the wall, “…25 minutes. If you have a pencil you can use it as well. I don’t want to see any ball point pen markings on your paper. You are working with a single color but you can thin it down with your water, if you want a wash. Make sure you put your name on the piece and put it over on the drying racks when you are finished. I expect you to use the entire 25 minutes allotted. Begin.”
We all went to work and she droned on. “This is not an exercise in anatomy. This is not a class in portrait or figure painting. I want to see how each of you views himself or herself. This piece will not be graded.”