I've always known what I wanted to be when I grew up. From a very early age, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher, like my mom. And the majority of my life has been journeyed along that path.
What few people know is that, before wanting to be a teacher (but after wanting to be a princess), I wanted to be an artist.
I've always been doing something creative since I was very small. I always loved drawing and painting, and my artistic abilities eventually expanded to include things such as music, writing, dancing, and acting.
As I grew older, however, my confidence in my abilities was crushed because, although I was good and had a bit of an instinct for all of those things, I didn't think that I had the natural talent for it like my peers. I stopped ballet because 5 year old Erin's legs hurt too much. I stopped painting because paints were expensive, and if I painted, my little brother would want to paint too, and he always made a mess that my mom didn't want to clean up. I stopped acting because I kept getting parts as an extra, and I felt I was an expendable part of the production. And even though my greatest talents were in music and writing, there was always still someone better than me. If I did "art," I was the only one that I ever allowed to see it, and even then sometimes I didn't want to. Over the past year I've started to pick up some of those things once again, but I still see my best friend creating magnificent clay sculptures, or my brother playing jazz in clubs, or another friend receiving awards for writing, and I think to myself: Dang. I suck.
So when Dr. Schuler asked me to do some perspective drawings of the dig site, I kept wanting to ask him if he really trusted me enough to do that.
See, on our trip to Jerusalem, there was a chunk of the group that wanted to go and see the Western Wall. I decided not to, because I could see it perfectly well from a distance, and I was hot and tired and a bit cranky, and didn't feel like going through security. So I stayed behind with Dr. Schuler and a couple of other people. I sat down next to Dr. Schuler on a bench, pulled out my little red Moleskien, and began to sketch the dome of the mosque or chapel or something in front of us absentmindedly. I had been using the notebook to write my impressions and thoughts while touring, like any good writer, and I didn't think that sketching was all that different. I was just beginning to start on the background buildings when I heard Dr. Schuler next to me say,
"I didn't know you could draw!"
Apparently my quick, pathetic sketch had distracted him from his conversation with Dr. Chambers enough to say something.
"Well, sort of," I stammered. "I mostly like mixing colors; impressionist stuff, really." He didn't really say any more at that time, but over the next week, he kept pulling me aside at the dig site and asked if I thought I could do a drawing of this corner, or this room. I always said that I could, but inside I was freaking out, especially after I saw an example from last year. The perspective was excellent, the shadows clear, the lines clean. Holy cow, I thought. He's going to be so disappointed, because there's no way I'm that good.
So this morning, Dr. Schuler, Jackie, Laura, Christine, Geoff, and I hiked up Susita in order to take measurements and do some drawings. (Side note: I have never sweated so much in my entire life. Even at 5:30 am, Israel is HOT.) Dr. Schuler gave Geoff the job of doing the mechanical floor plan drawing (thank the Lord, because if I did that I would be miserable because it involves math), gave me my paper, and went off to take some measurements with the others. I seated myself in a little niche of the stylobate wall in the Beta building (yes, our stylobate was robbed out as well. Frustration.) and started to draw.
Not really knowing how to begin, I started taking measurements of what I had to draw, and did a little math (gasp) in order to fit everything to my 1 m: 5 cm scale. Taking a deep breath and remembering everything I could from my 6th grade lessons in perspective drawing, I began to draw my little corner.
I set up the corner rather nicely, and then drew some of the walls, and started on the stairs. The mass amount of sweat on my skin from the walk up began to disappear (thankfully) in the morning breeze, and I went into my little drawing "mind palace." I was determined to make everything as clean and right as I could. When I started to draw the grinding bowls, however, some of that obsessiveness went out the window. Unlike bricks and stairs, which are fairly straight, grinding bowls look like cones. They have curves. They have a bit of life to them. And so my sketching became easier. Towards the end of the morning. I was sketching in bricks and walls freehand - keeping everything in somewhat perspective and to scale - because I had finally figured out that I was not necessarily bound by mechanical rules while drawing. So what if things weren't perfect or exactly to scale? I'm an impressionist, gosh darn it, and that's what I do: impressions. My drawing is supposed to bring life into the empirical measurements of the dig site; it's meant to help people imagine and place themselves in the site.
My drawing is far from perfect. Even though I'm not done with it quite yet, and I still think that it looks a bit cartoonish, I think I did OK. Maybe with a little bit of practice and encouragement (from myself), I could actually become good at this stuff again. I can't count how many times I've wished that I had brought my paints to Israel; somehow, the Galilean sunsets aren't done justice with a camera. But that will have to wait until I get home. In the meantime, I shall just keep sketching away, even though I really can't draw.