Throughout high school, I had dreams of becoming an animator. I liked the potential paycheck. At the time, I was unaware of the truly amazing life-changing qualities of fine art. Sure I painted, and often in a narrative format, but like most young painters – the work was largely uninspiring.
During my senior year of high school, while mending a broken heart, I made a new friend. It was in one of those classes that are so boring even the teacher occasionally naps. Out of desperation, one befriends anyone sitting nearby; I began a series of long conversations with a junior named “Kristina”. She was a seemingly shy and very smart girl that wasn’t hard to look at if one could get around her “nerdy-quality-looks”. Ironically, she was in love with a rough-neck, an older boy that had been expelled from school the previous year for fighting or striking a teacher or some other such adolescent nonsense. School came easily to her and the concept that public education had some level of value was lost on her rambling mind. Maybe her disregard for institutions came from living with her grandmother, or perhaps it was some other Freudian misstep by her abandoning parents; but whatever “it” was – she seemed freer than anyone else I knew at the time, unregulated by the rules of our conventional Midwest lives. I found her exhilarating – if not a little mad.
One boring morning, while the teacher was allowing us to grade each other’s tests (a ridiculous notion that caused everyone to miraculously do quite well in the Advanced Biology course); she told me that she had visions. Prophetic dreams that she claimed were a common part of her life. It was the first and only time she ever mentioned this “revelation” and although I didn’t place much stock in the concept of her pseudoscience, I never forgot the story she told.
I see you, older now, in a studio - your studio. Your wife is there and she doesn’t look like the girls you follow now. She has dark hair and dark eyes, but the two of you are not alone – a small blond-haired boy is riding his tricycle in circles around your paintings and easels. There are many unfinished works lined against the walls, you jump back and forth between them, all the while selecting brushes from a jar on the center table and avoiding the wheels of your son’s tricycle. You laugh and call him Tommy.
At that moment, I don’t know what sounded more ridiculous to me – a career as a fulltime painter, being married, or having a son named Tommy. I knew where I thought I wanted to be in life and that didn’t sound remotely correct.
Although, I still don’t place much stock in premonitions or other psychic visions – I must admit I was a bit dumbfounded when I stopped to look around my studio the other evening and saw my lovely brunette wife looking on as I painted on multiple works and my young son, Dylan Thomas rode his tricycle around our legs… his cotton blond hair flying as he turned sharp circles.
I still don’t believe that Kristina “saw” anything all those years ago. Furthermore, I know that our little discussion did little if anything to make me turn from cartoons to raw paint on canvas. My appreciation for fine art came from other living influences in my daily college life: Ronald Clayton, Lane Fabrick, Edwin Smith, Kathryn Ellinger-Smith, and most importantly Gregory Jones. There is a nagging feeling, though, that influence is still influence. Her words didn’t make me become a painter, but perhaps she influenced how I lived my life as one. – DN