L is a former student of mine. Like many who have come before and after her, I can still picture her toothy grin, her big brown eyes, and the lock of hair she would twirl between her thumb and index finger absent-mindedly as a ten-year-old. L is now a junior high schooler, and aside from that making me feel kind of old, I am never surprised when I see her work in the hallways of the school’s art wing. The roots of her artistic expression were burgeoning when I had her in my classroom.
L is a deeply sensitive, dramatic, complex, and beautiful young soul. The complexities have shifted, understandably, as she’s reached teenage years. Every so often, L stops by my classroom during her free period. Sometimes we talk, but sometimes we don’t. That’s okay too. Earlier this week, I was coming back from a meeting and L was perched outside my door and asked if my room was free. It was, so L sat down and took out her sketchpad. I did some prep around the classroom, and L continued to draw. She draws gorgeous portraits with deep pencil outlines. This one had rich colors and a light touch around the eyes. As the forty-minute period passed, the image that came to light for me was that of a young girl’s shoulders easing, her breath steadying, and her mood shifting. L was in a world that understood her and welcomed her inside. I had simply provided her the space for it to take hold. I hardly consider myself to be an artist, but I can and do appreciate what art does for the soul.
As someone who can identify with the need for a creative outlet (hello, blog…) these four stories can resonate with the artist in all of us.