As a girl she was fascinated by all the little colored dots that teemed her vision. When she opened her eyelids sparks of starry whites and crystal reds appeared and when she closed her eyelids the whites remained and were quickly flooded in with black and grey specks. Like spilling a whole container of glitter. Like shaking out crystal sprinkles for sugar cookies. She thought about sugar cookies a lot; her mother made three dozen at a time at Christmas. Real sugar cookies, with dough that took ages to roll out and frosting that heaped so rich in a giant silver mixing bowl you might as well get a spoon.
She kept this secret pleasure from others, this pleasure of seeing things in pixel-vision because she knew that others found her strange. When she was ten, though, she saw Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and therefore saw the scene when Ferris’ best friend Cameron stares ad infinitum at A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat. Seraut painted tiny dots of all the colors that made up the colors that made up the shapes that made up the light and color that made up his vision. A lady’s black hat is made up of thousands of stars of white and blue and red. Not really black at all. She saw this painting, even if it was via a John Hughes film, and she understood light and color.
She understood so much that in the sixth grade she attempted pointillism in her art class. The children at her elementary school were taught by a kind and good teacher; he knew that young artists (because they’re all artists when they’re young) like pottery, glazing, sculpture, big collages, messy materials. He didn’t sit them down and lecture. He let them at it. The girl liked the teacher a lot, and wanted to impress him. She wanted to show-off that she knew about the painting and drawing with the tiny dots, because that’s how she viewed the world, as filled with infinite points of color and light. The painting was mainly pink and silver. She let the paint flow out of the school-issue brush abstractly and then filled in the color with tiny dots in black India ink. It was beautiful, made doubly so both in spite of and because she didn’t have the full grasp or the time for classic pointillism at twelve.
He loved it. The painting was framed and received the highest grade possible. Her name was put on the school billboard and read below in big black block letters that she was the “Artist of the Month”. The girl’s mother and father took her picture standing beside the sign. In it her arms are folded, she’s wearing a black headband and she’s removed her glasses. She wore black that day, and stripey socks. She squints at the light because she’s gravely astigmatic.
The next year she attempts the technique again. New art class, new school, new teacher. The girl tries to imitate just a square of Sunday on the La Grande Jatte, as their assignment is to mimic a famous artist’s technique. She knows she can’t do the whole painting, as it took Seurat almost two years to complete the original. She tried to summarize as best she could the trees and the lady with the black hat. She thought it was enough given the size, depth, and detail of the original.
It wasn’t. The teacher gave her a C, and said it was a good effort but she really should have finished the assignment. Our young artist was crushed and didn’t paint or draw again until she was an adult. The teacher wasn’t mean-hearted, just by the book and strict. But the girl knew even then that real art, the kind that comes from deep in our dreams, wasn’t by the book or strict at all. It merits no grade and can not be compared and contrasted for technique or skill. It simply is.