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I AM an Artist

by Gillian-Jewelle, 10th grade, RBVHS Graffiti Club, 2019.03.06

Rancho Buena Vista High School Graffiti Club
Gillian-Jewelle with her sketchbook

Recently I’ve picked up a pen and paper again, in many different ways, to express myself, and one of which is, well, drawing. It was about 2 weeks ago when I got this burst of inspiration that felt like flowing through me and I, in no doubt knew it had to be expressed in art. You see, that day I was reading one of Victor Villasenor’s books and, as I normally do, I always feel so uplifted, powerful, and spiritually revived when I read his work. I had just wrapped up a chapter and what he spoke about hit me so hard, I needed to do something with this energy. When the first thought to draw came through to my head I undeniably knew it was what I had to do. I was excited and in entering the school band room, I was in urgent need to find a pen and pencil. You wouldn’t believe what happened next. You see, I was so bouncy and in a hurry, I couldn't let any of this excitement slip away from myself, and as I turned to scope the left side of the room, full of lockers and chairs crowding much passage, to any place I saw. In my effectless first glance I found A SKETCHBOOK. This was a crazy coincidence and as it sat there, on the color guard floor mats, it glew like a holy treasure. My very initial thought was ‘this is but a coincidence, it was placed there just for me, by god him/herself’. I didn't care! It’s quite funny to me, I didn't care who it belonged to because this urge spoke for itself and I had to fulfil it. It’s been so long since I’ve ever felt so inspired by nothing but my own learning, not from others but from what I guided myself to learn.

I took the sketchbook and ran to sit in the sun. For as long as I remember I’ve always played and painted in the sun and I knew within myself that, in the middle of the concrete between the gym and lunch tables was my spot because the sun shined so brightly right there. The sun has always been something that give me such love and freedom. The left eye of god truly. Oh! How I was flying, not knowing exactly what I was creating but in a way everything was being created as it should be. I dedicated this drawing as I wrote

"To the mother moon and the father sun,

The live waters and mountain views of our mother earth,

La mano de Dios (the hand of god) and the infinite stars we are apart of and walk through,

To the heart we feel, see, and hear through,

And to each person's place

Otro milagro de Dios (another miracle of god)”

I drew with my heart and a quote from Victor Villasenor’s grandmother in mind. “The whole spirit world is always with us wherever we go, if we just has the ojos/eyes to see from our hearts and the orejas/ears to hear from our soul”. OH I was so happy to have captured my feelings as I was so fearful I would soon, suddenly, unknowingly how, lose it.

I’ve taken more trips, done some more accepting, learnt so more on my own time, and strived to find this kingdom within myself. Soon, another drawing flew out of me and it made me feel more comfortable about this hand to paper thing.

And today I drew again. As I’ve been learning the sacred beliefs and some traditions of the Yaqui Indians, I decided I’d draw a native American, my people regardless of what tribe. Their beliefs are like something I had never heard but something I’ve never felt more sure in believing in my WHOLE LIFE! Crazy I know. So as my weights teacher, Coach T, let us out 40 minutes early from class (we worked hard but I too am surprised with what time we had left when I got the chance to check) I walked myself to the band room where I’d draw something for today's graffiti club meeting after school. Pulling up this picture of a Native American Women (still very young) holding a child, I felt it was the right picture as it depicted this empowering love for women and especially the people, who have such empowering beliefs above all. I've never been good at shading but today that wasn't an obstacle. You see it's been over a year since I’ve dropped drawing, and in coming back, I realized today, that its like I have fresh eyes and a new hand whom I both trust so much more. I drew freely and I am a little amazing with what I have created (but I am not finished yet). I know that little by little my understandings of things in art is becoming more refined and I can understand pictures and draw what I thought was so challenging. Pictures are now making sense and I can visualize what strokes create the picture.

I sat quietly drawing in graffiti club, which I am completely new to. After drawing my first drawing in the mystery sketchbook, I discovered the owner and returned it, leaving the, what I thought was, another piece of paper in the sketchbook. Well turns out that they share their drawings every Wednesday to the club art teachers and my drawing became a hit of interest. Soon members of the club started asking me to go, even if I didn't want to, to at least give it a chance, even nagging my boyfriend to persuade me into going. So I’ve been going for the last week or two because I am a strong believer that I must try all things with an open heart.

Drawing, many people complimented it even saying how far beyond it is from their ability of drawing, gracious, I had nothing much to say but my overwhelming thanks to them. But I returned to drawing immediately after. The teacher went through mostly everyone's sketchbook, examining it, kindly telling them what they can work own, and asking what that piece means to them. After seeing most peoples, she talked about the history of graffiti and why it's so important to people and how we can inform other people of its importance. I was honestly intrigued, yet still drawing.

She was almost going to wrap up when she suddenly remembers she had not seen mine, and not just her, but a few other people in the room want to see what I have drawn as well. I instantly and mostly by habit wanted to make up an excuse but I stopped myself before it slipped out and obliged to her request. She adored my two latest drawings, something about the eyes being clearly readable even if flipped upside down and how she loved the spirituality, saying it was a form of art called “New Age” modern art, which are heavily represented by spiritual concepts. She finally gets to the women and child been working on for the last hour and is shocked.

“What does this mean to you? Is it important?” I told her how much I love the Yaqui Indians beliefs and that its something very important to me as its been something I’ve been non-stop learning about.

“Wow, how long has drawing been so important in your life?”

Uhhhh, I thought before answering, “I wouldn’t say it's important to my life really? I’ve always drawn but I never considered it something important.”

“You’re telling me you draw like this...” she demonstrates my drawing to the class as proof to justify her words, “... and it doesn't mean much to you. You just told me of all the expression and importance you represent through this, you put into this, and it doesn’t mean much?”

Something was starting to click, she had a valid point I was beginning to see and then I knew an answer was about to pour out of me. “To be completely honest, I didn't even know I could draw like this. It's been about a year since I’ve stopped drawing and I barely started again a few weeks ago.” my answer before was to a question (the question ‘how long has art been important to your life?’) I hadn't asked myself in a long time and it's the same question that had made me give up drawing.

“You see, I’ve always looked up to my brother, he's had such a huge influence on me. He's an amazing artist, and though we have completely different styles, my could never compare to his.” This was all true, ha it's like I was confessing something to the club but I knew I had to liberate my soul at this very moment. And as I did, I didn’t know who was listening because I didn't have my attention on them, and in fact it wasn’t like I was having this convo with the teacher either. I was talking face to face with all my doubt as if this woman was a mirror. “He’s always drawing things that are so significant to him and I couldn't even find something significant to myself. It didn't live up to his.” I knew back then I potentially had this talent but I couldn't do anything with it if I wanted to. “Truth be told I give up and I denied I was even or ever an artist.”

Saying this was so huge because I really had, for the longest time, not only given up drawing, but any part of myself that said I was an artist or artistic in any why. You know, my brother has had a lot of ups and downs, sometimes he’d encourage me and other times he’d bash my hopes, well regardless I love him, but art was his outlet and I just give that title solely to him.

“But he hasn’t been home recently, he’s been out of the country, and I feel like I can express myself…” I’ve been doing so much accepting, acknowledging, and learning without his influence as an interference in the last 2 ½ weeks he's been gone.

“And now all these things have come pouring out” said the lady. She's in the late 50s to mid 60s, with short white hair, sparkling blue eyes, and a fuller figure. Stunned, she has said the words I has not grasped to say yet.

My brother and I would always talk about how when he leaves, it'd be then and only then that I’d find my own influence and have to fend for myself with my own thoughts and beliefs and since he's been gone that exactly what I’ve doing and so exponentially. And I will try to do as much of it as I can before he returns.

I shared how the sudden desire to draw came to me, exactly as I wrote above and I knew it was to be something great. She shared with the class how powerful this was as “this urge was beyond you, you didn’t understand it but you just had to draw” Oh myyy this was ENTIRELY TRUE! And she said it, NOT ME! She was so spun in my every word it was refreshing. I also shared about my previous times I’d try to draw but was not able to.

“I’ve gone on many trips and is always see people and things and just think they were art. Everything was art and I just wanted to draw them, paint them but when I go to the sketchbook, I- I just couldn't.”

I remember how frustrating it was, I wanted to create this masterpiece but right when the pencil hit the paper I’d be flooded with doubt and it tore me so much I felt like crying. It was a horrible depression. It hurt to even think of myself drawing or painting. It drove me insane!! These things, and oh these people… It could be the ugliest person! And I’d just see someone so beautiful, a story I don’t know, a story I don't have to know, just them as a being, themselves, was so beautiful to me. I wanted to express to them with my painting how amazing they are, and it hurts that I couldn’t do that for them, for the world, or for myself.

“As much as I wanted to I j u s t couldn’t, but you’re right. Everything is pouring out of me.” For the first time in forever I feel inspired. I know I also had an artist block because I expected to be inspired by things but I wasn't the same person. And now, as the person I am at this very moment, I am inspired by entirely new concepts only time could reveal to me. And as I spoke to this lady, Linda, I realized I didn't have a reason to deny this part of myself anymore and it felt as if a burden lifted off my shoulders. And there in front of me! Was proof of what I could do this time and I couldn’t turn my back towards that.

I would always say to myself that everything is art, but (I must remember) I am an artist. And when Linda conveyed to me that she was depressed, even though she had the ideal relationship, the perfect life, she said a therapist saw something in her no one else had. “Linda you have to figure out what an artist is to you, and what being an artist yourself means to you, and no one else can determine this except yourself,” and it opened her eyes and she was released from such depression to find who she was. I’ve spent so long trying to figure out what an artist is and/or if I could find it in myself to call myself one without being pained. Her story, I felt, released me personally. And I discovered once again, as I had always known as a child, that I AM an artist.

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