“Is it a pink panther?”
“No. Think less obvious.”
Pauses. “How about a pink dog?”
“No, it’s a pig.”
“Really? A pig?”
“Yup. A really skinny one, I guess…”
“Oh! Um, okay then.”
And that’s pretty much how the conversation goes with anyone who asks about the watercolor portrait of the unfortunate looking pink creature displayed proudly against a background of grass-covered hills and a speckling of random flowers. It is currently sitting up in my bedroom. I am trying to convince my Honay it belongs on the wall in there, proudly displayed, despite how spectacular a failure it is.
The truth is, it used to bother me how awful it was. I have grandparents on BOTH sides of the family that either were or are great artists, actually. So art ability should be running in my blood. In me, however, the artistry gene came out of more of a musical medium in general, (dance, singing) rather than a paintbrush and blank canvas.
The infamous ‘Skinny Pig’, watercolor on paper portrait was created at the end of the day at an art class my mom brought me to when I was about 7 years old. I recall the teacher told us to find a quiet spot on our own, imagine something in our heads, and then express it in watercolor form. I remember crawling under a desk in the corner of the room, shutting my eyes tight. I was taking the whole thing very seriously. I didn’t want to just draw the cartoon-looking concentric circle version of a pig my mom drew. I was trying to be a very serious “Arteest.” What resulted for me was an epic failure to depict a real-life pig from memory. My poor 7-year-old brain just couldn’t grasp the proper imagery necessary to create such a masterpiece.
For years, the unfortunate pig was taped to the wall behind my dad’s desk. I really don’t know why or how it survived. I think my mom thought it was cute how I’d tried. It also made for a great conversation starter. In the years that followed, I was able to hone my art skills enough to win ribbons for my art at the local County Fair, yet none of those items made it to the wall. The pig stood alone, mocking me with its beady little black eyes, reminding me of my artistic shortcomings.
When my parents moved to Japan, the ‘Skinny Pig’ moved to my Grandma’s house. There is stayed until she passed away last year. I found it in her bedroom closet, taped to a silver frame with white matting. I took it home with me, even though I didn’t really know why I was saving something so silly.
Yesterday, my Honay and I decided it was finally time to hang up the artwork in our townhouse. I took on the task of separating the artwork into different collections by room. I pulled out a beautiful scattering of oil and mixed media paintings my grandfather had done over the years, as well as the ones my grandmother had done. Beautiful examples of artwork that were well deserving of a place on our walls.
Then I came across a familiar silver frame with white matting and grimaced a little as the unfortunate pink pig came into my view. It was so pathetic looking with its long tail and nonexistent nose. My Honay teased me about how awful it was. My daughter joined the ranks of those who had come before her, trying to figure out what the heck it was. (She guessed a lion.)
But then I thought back to how many other artistic things I had accomplished over the years after the ‘Skinny Pig.’ I was able t boast countless other drawings, dance recitals, ballets, hip-hop shows, and choir and band performances. I had successes and failures, but I kept on trying regardless. I have a beautiful collection of memories of all the hard work and performance opportunities I have pursued so far.
The important thing is that I didn’t let the shame of an anorexic pig stop me from moving forward and pursuing my dreams. I want the picture on my bedroom wall to remind me AND my daughters that in order to accomplish your dreams you’re going to have to move past your failures and learn from them, no matter what the medium. No matter what anyone says about your skills (or perhaps lack thereof). You have to start somewhere and just keep moving forward.