This post is dedicated to Megan Newbound.
I’ve always been a creative person, but my inner artist lay dormant for many years. As a child, I went through prolonged periods of obsessive drawing. Drawing was my way of making sense of my life and the world around me. Heaven was a stack of paper, a packet of textas and a free schedule.
I remember the first big prize I won was for my art. I won a book voucher. It is one of my happiest childhood memories. Not that I did art for recognition – far from it. I did art because I loved doing art – it was as simple as that. It was one thing in my life I felt very confident about.
Fast forward to high school, and my relationship with art transformed completely. Our art teacher was an insecure woman who had some very severe issues. Hello, Megan Newbound. Thank you so much for doing everything you could to completely ruin my confidence in my creativity.
She was a young woman then; probably younger than I am now. She was blonde and mousy and highly strung. When I had her, she had a spiral perm that made her look like a sheep with glasses. It was obvious to me that she was insecure about her role as a teacher. I suspect she was someone who did a fine art degree, realised she needed a job and did a Dip Ed. She certainly didn’t strike me as someone who was born to teach.
I remember her sucking up to the kids she considered ‘popular’ and trying to socialise with them outside of school hours. That’s creepy, right? She had a select few favourite kids, and they could do no wrong in her eyes. She also identified the misfits and gave them absolute hell. I was one of those misfits, and she never wasted a moment to berate me in front of the class. There were two of us who I remember her picking on. Both of us did actually try and both of us regularly got marks like 16 per cent. I don’t know about you but in my world, you don’t give a kid 16 per cent unless they totally make no effort at all. There were other factors eroding my confidence at that time so I remember convincing myself that she was right and my art sucked.
You were were my worst teacher ever and I will never forget you, Megan Newbound, you poor, insecure, nasty human being. Here’s hoping you mellowed with time.
She never, ever, ever gave me one single passing grade, and her classes were the worst I’ve ever had in my life. I tried to complain about her, but when a teenager accuses a teacher of ‘picking on’ them, noone takes much notice. Today, as a 36-year-old mother I still remember the frustration and helplessness of being targeted like that and not being believed. I know from that experience to listen to a kid and give them the benefit of the doubt in these situations. Yes, I know. Kids can be twerps. I wouldn’t be a teacher for all the money in the world because I remember how mean teenagers can be. But teachers CAN abuse their power too, and some choose to do just that.
I’m older now, and know that I should never have taken one jot of notice of her. But kids are impressionable, and I just assumed that she knew what she was talking about when she said I was no good at art. She didn’t have a clue.
Chances are, most of us will encounter a Megan Newbound or two in our lives. The trick is to NOT get bitter or let them affect you in any way, I think. In the end, the ultimate revenge is to take our passions and be sickeningly, disgustingly passionate about them anyway. And yes, I know, Megan Newbound. I will never paint the Sistine Chapel or the Mona Lisa. Hell, I can’t even draw a properly proportioned stick figure. Guess what? I don’t care one bit! I wish I could go back to my teenage self and tell her that enthusiasm eclipses talent every time. I don’t care how much a person sucks at something! If it brings them joy, then they should do it every chance they get. Particularly something as personal as art. The Mona Lisa is ok, but I wouldn’t have it on my wall. Take that, art snobs! Give me a colourful kiddie drawing any day.
I suspect Megan Newbound was a frustrated artist who knew she wasn’t good enough to make a living out of art. Whatever was bugging her, she took it out on a bunch of nerdy kids and that is really rather pathetic. It feels good to reach a point where I feel nothing but pity for people like her. My only regret is that I ever let her affect me to the point that I abandoned one of my great loves. I might never have become the next Warhol. So what? I’m not sad about that but I am sad about the hours of joy I denied myself because some idiot told me I sucked at art. I’m determined to make up for lost time, and if my son comes to me with a similar story, I will BELIEVE HIM. So, check mate, Newbound. I win.
It’s only quite recently that I’ve re-discovered my love of art. There is nothing more fun than tooling around with Photoshop, snipping away at a pile of National Geographics to make a collage, cutting, folding and painting. There is nothing quite so satisfying as making a really cool work of art. It’s wonderful to re-discover a passion that lay dormant for so long! My only regret is that I ever listened to that horrible, mean-spirited, narrow minded woman. Art makes me a happy, happy Ruby. I hope you enjoy my art. And if you don’t, too bad, because I enjoy my art.
PS. I’m not really a bitter, twisted person, I promise… xox