Anyone you meet has the potential to influence how you think or act in a positive way. I’m hoping that with every artist Meilee meets that she gets a cumulative understanding about just how different artists can be and be inspired to grow beyond rainbows and princesses. She does have moments of expression that clearly show great potential, but she falls back too easily into the kind of rudimentary drawings you’d expect from a 6 year old. But because I’ve seen that glimmer of brilliance, I want to make sure that she is set up to discover her own tipping point.
This weekend, we were happy to have our friends Colin and Erica Baugh visit from Los Angeles. Colin is a former colleague and Erica is a painter. She saw some of Meilee’s drawings that I had posted to Instagram and asked if it was possible to purchase two of them. I responded that I’d be happy to give her some reproductions of those particular drawings (and a home-cooked meal) in exchange for an art lesson for Meilee.
As I cooked dinner, Erica began talking to Meilee about how to mix paints. She quizzed Meilee on some basic combinations: How do you get purple? (Red plus blue.) How do you get green? (Blue plus yellow) How do you get orange? (Yellow plus red.)
And so it went for a few minutes. Then, they started mixing colors in order to make a color wheel.
Meilee enjoyed learning about how to create different shades of a given color. “Like pumpkin orange, cold blue, warm blue,” she recalled.
Just before we had to clean up for dinner, Meilee interviewed Erica. My husband recorded the conversation (that’s him chuckling in the background). You will also see in the video below what happened the next morning. Big thanks to Erica for her generosity of time, spirit and paints!
Meilee loves to draw. I had looked into a summer art camp, but the cost and transportation were issues. It occurred to me that I know a few artists and it would make sense to introduce Meilee to them, let her ask questions, and see their art. At work, I learned that meeting a scientist has a positive impact on whether a child considers becoming a scientist. I don’t see why that wouldn’t apply to any type of professional. So I decided to DIY some art “classes” for Meilee.
I first met Gina Tolentino in 2003 when she started dating Jerry Corso, a friend who was a chef at one of my favorite restaurants at the time. I remember how Jerry described Gina when he mentioned that he was going out with her: “She’s gorgeous.” (They’re now married.) I think Gina’s art is gorgeous: richly colored fantasy worlds. I arranged for a visit to Gina’s studio at the Georgetown Arts & Cultural Center.
Meilee delighted in the art that surrounded her, especially the painting of a snail that’s the subject of a children’s book that Gina is illustrating “A Whale Who Dreamt of a Snail.” Gina was kind to look through some of Meilee’s drawings and offer some encouraging words.
I prompted Meilee to ask questions. “I have trouble drawing in the lines,” she said. Gina responded that it indeed is hard to draw within the lines, but that it takes practice to improve. One trick, she added, is to draw a second line to help broaden the border. Then she showed Meilee an example of how it’s also possible to cover up a “mistake.”
Gina also showed us one of her larger works, a three-panel underwater scene that includes jellyfish with faces and a shimmering mermaid.
Another great piece of advice that Gina shared was that it’s helpful for an artist to keep a notebook of inspirations. Gina has a binder of magazine clippings. She showed Meilee a picture of a shiny couture dress and explained that when she sees a dress like this she asks herself how she would approach painting the shimmer of the fabric.
At the end of our visit, Gina invited Meilee to return so that they can draw together. What a great opportunity!