September 8, 2013, was Harbor Seal Day. Seal Sitters got proclamations from the mayor as well as the governor and organized festivities around the official dedication of the “Sentinels of the Sound” harbor seal sculpture on Alki Beach. The sculpture, by artist Georgia Gerber, shows a mama seal and her pup, and it’s located near the Bathhouse. The dedication involved an invocation from Ken Workman, of the Duwamish tribe, who is one of the descendants of Chief Sealth (Seattle’s namesake).
As part of the festivities, Seal Sitters organized an art and story contest for kids. I encouraged Meilee to enter and, at first, she was excited about the prospect. Days passed and she still hadn’t made an effort to sketch an idea for the contest. When she finally did draw a picture of a harbor seal, it was lackluster and showed none of the skill or imagination that she usually effuses. These two drawings are “lazy” compared to what Meilee is capable of drawing.
Lest you think I’m being harsh, here’s a recent drawing Meilee did that does show her abilities. (The snail is a free-hand rendition of a the character from the new book “A Whale Who Dreamt of a Snail” by William Heimbach and illustrated by Angelina Tolentino – the same Gina featured in this previous post.)
No matter how much cheerleading I gave Meilee about the seal art, she just couldn’t find her inspiration. Even after we attended our first seal sitting shift and she got to see a pup on the beach, a drawing did not emerge. I was disappointed, because this was exactly the kind of opportunity that would give her a taste of working toward an artistic goal that had a potential payoff beyond the satisfaction of completing a project: winning the contest. But, I recognized that I needed to let this one go, because I didn’t want Meilee to have negative associations with drawing harbor seals. If she wasn’t inspired, she wasn’t inspired. Shortly after the entry deadline, Seal Sitters announced that the deadline had been extended. I took it as a sign that we should try again.
Again, there was struggle. I put Meilee on a phone call with artist Erica Baugh (read post about Erica) to get some advice on how to deal with artist’s block. Still, she “dialed it in.”
She ultimately decided to write a poem and illustrate it. I was just glad that she completed a drawing before the deadline. She earned an “honorable mention” and “most poetic.”
I hoped this experience would help her begin to understand the consequence of not putting effort into a project and the potential reward and fulfillment of a job well-done.