My dabbling in art started at ground level

I was very bold for a 5-year-old. I asked my sister for art paper from the book she received as a Christmas gift. To keep me out of her hair, Jeanette agreed.

I was so excited. The paper was thicker than the usual scraps I doodled on. It felt like the real thing. It was actually waiting to absorb my art and bring it to life. I felt this much was true. I hurried to set up my glass of water and brush and got my paint tin from the cupboard.

I sat at the kitchen table with furrowed brow, ready to paint a masterpiece. But what technique to use? I had seen my sister use her pastels to "blend" colors, so why wouldn't it work with paint? I thought I'd try red, yellow, green, and some black for good measure. I plunged into it with my 10-pack of paint discs. My first attempt was less than the artistic triumph I had envisioned.

The colors I tried to blend mixed on the paper and sucked into each other. My paper was not covered with flowers like Van Gogh's, but with dull gray-black splotches.

Jeanette came to see how I was doing and saw the runny mess. "You've ruined it!" she screamed. She didn't mean the picture, but her precious paper. She snatched the last two sheets back from me. Obviously I wasn't deserving of them.

Still, I was not about to give up. In life, as in art, one must make the magic happen for oneself and not give in to the tirades of an older artist-sister who thinks you are "untalented." If not good at blending paints, what about some other medium?

I went outside to paint the mud from puddles onto stones in the backyard and noticed Jeanette's bike. It looked dull, so I thought some mud paint would be just the thing to make it look better. I slathered it on good and thick, almost as if i were a sculptor. By suppertime, it was beyond recognition ... but all great art must start somewhere.

The next day I heard a scream from the backyard. The chain that spun from the pedals was clogged with hardened clay. The spokes sent showers of dust when my sister tried to loosen it by lifting a wheel and spinning it. Again, not what I had envisioned.

"Who did this?" she yelled, looking first at my brother and then at his friend, Donny, as they rolled on the lawn laughing.

No one 'fessed up, and it was good for me that Mom called me in to wash up at just about that time.

Then I knew why artists sometimes like to be known as "anonymous." It was not the last time I dabbled in art, but it was the last time I used my sister's bike as a canvas.

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