Julia is having her first art lesson.
I planned to write about the rest of the vacation. Perhaps I will write a bit more about it but not now.
Julia is having her first art lesson.
Julia has been drawing for about 7 years now. She was scribbling for a year before that — those big sweeping arcs that two year olds do. She was 6 and then 7. During those days, she was so far behind in everything, she was so hard to put to sleep, her behavior, like those arcs, reminded me of a 2-year old. And we — David and I — were pretty scared. Then one day during first grade — she had the same teacher for Kindergarten and first grade — her teacher, Christy, called me from school. This was not unusual at that time. I got calls at least a few times a week to come into school, if I could, to help with a tantrum. That day, Christy called me and announced that “Julia was drawing!” And she was. There was a dinosaur on the page and some other unidentifiable forms. Every one was carefully made — distinct and clear. Julia had been making forms in clay for awhile by that time but suddenly she was making her forms two dimensional.
About a million pieces of paper later, it is clear to anyone who sees her work that Julia is an artist. Like the artists that I have known, Julia draws all the time. So much all the time that her time drawing needs to be limited sometimes during school or therapy. Drawing has been used as a reward for good work or behavior and a majority of the gifts given to her at any time have something to do with art. And she uses them all. Although I have not kept all of her art work — I take pictures before I discard — I have dozens of sketchbooks that are completely filled. This summer, one of our reading projects is to draw a picture of a part of the day’s reading. This was suggested by her eye doc who does vision therapy with her. For Julia to draw a scene she will have to imagine it, perhaps imagine it in greater depth than she is used to doing. Julia decodes with ease and she reads too quickly to uncover everything in a text. Thus, her comprehension is poor. She has problems with comprehension because it is so hard for her to infer anything that is not on the page but her speed reading makes the hinderance greater. Perhaps by drawing a picture of Mary and Laura running through the prairie, she will eventually infer that the day was sunny or there were little hills that the girls ran up and down. I don’t think that this will happen quickly but Julia loves to read and loves to draw. In the early days of her drawing, we learned about her anger and rage and sadness. It was amazing that after years of drawing dinosaurs fighting and killing each other, she began to draw nests with eggs and tiny dinosaurs hatching, dinosaur weddings and dinosaur families. I imagine that she will learn inference through drawing.
Another summer project is art class with Kati, who has taught her art for the past 4 years. Katie said to me two years ago that she would love to teach Julia but she couldn’t do it while Julia was still a student and anyway, I was not ready to impose lessons in art on Julia. I and the army of support that has surrounded Julia have tried to change so much about Julia. We have all tried to modify behavior, control emotions, speak appropriately, interact gracefully and count and read and do self care. I wanted her art to be just for her. Certainly, she was getting some instruction in school, and without a doubt her art was changing and her eye growing, but it was at her own pace and with her own interests. This summer I want Kati to try to teach her about art. Can Julia change the way she draws when she is being coached?
And this is her first time.
Julia began the lesson, as she always does, refusing to consider doing anything that Kati suggests. (Need I say, Thank the heavens for someone who knows Julia well!!! ) Within an hour, they are both on the floor in the living room drawing various views of Julia’s cello with pencils that smudge. I hear Julia refuse to look up at the cello as she is drawing and Kati telling her that she will set a timer and Julia needs to look up each time. Kati moves the cello and they draw the instrument in 3/4 view and on one side. And she is doing it! And calls for me to look at the work. She complains to Kati that what she is doing is not good and then goes back to work. She is drawing more than one view on a big piece of paper. She asks to color what she has drawn and that gives Kati a change to point out variations in color and shadow and highlights. Julia is not complaining as Kati speaks. She begins with light colors and layers on as Kati advises. Julia usually goes for the dark colors and then tries to layer on the lighter — she goes through a lot of white pencils and crayons.
Yesterday, during attachment therapy, Marilyn asked Julia to draw a picture of the dolphin that she swam with in Mexico. (We do not have pictures of the experience because those pictures were too expensive.) Julia complained that she could not draw a dolphin. She did not know what it looked like. And then she began drawing. She drew two pictures and the one above is the second picture. The girl — Julia — has a life jacket on and she is holding onto the jacket just as she was told to do when the dolphin kissed her. Although Julia drew herself at first with the pigtails that she usually puts on herself, she erased them and drew her hair closer to the way it looks now and with her favorite flower clip. I especially love how happy she looks. To know Julia’s work it is to know that she doesn’t always draw the people or animals that she works on with happy faces. Julia’s happy face is like a double joy.
Julia has been designated as a TAG (Talented and Gifted) art student. Because of that and also because of her IEP, she will have art every semester during middle school. In the world of budget cuts, this is a rare privilege. Talking to the middle school art teacher, Tracy, I think, she plans to have Julia do what the regular art class does for the first semester and then work on individual projects the second semester. And then make plans for seventh grade. These ideas make this summer’s lessons even more important. If Julia is to have school art projects, she needs to accept and learn from a teacher.
If we have departed dear ones who protect and guide us from where ever they are after death, I can almost imagine that my dear friend, Jim Jones, is Julia’s guardian angel. Jim’s work hangs all over our house and sometimes Julia comments about the work and about Jim as if she had known him. She does in a way — she knows his work. Jim was no angel but just perhaps he is hers.