When I was growing up in Dallas, Mama always knew that she could keep my big sister Julie and me occupied with a stack of paper and crayons or a pen or a pencil. We would draw for hours on end at the kitchen table, singing silly songs at the top of our lungs. One of our favorite tunes was Henry Mancini’s The Pink Panther. I don’t know how Mama tolerated hearing us sing so many crazy renditions of that melody but I guess it kept us out of trouble and it pleased her to see us having such a good time.
Mama was always tickled that, though we both exhibited artistic talent at an early age, Julie was drawing architectural renderings of houses, along with boxy, angular renditions of people and cars. I, on the other hand, was designing women’s clothes and drawing ballerinas and beautiful princesses in flowing ball gowns with lace and flowers and bows.
My sister never pursued architecture as a career, though she certainly had a natural talent for it. She has an MBA and a long and successful career in Commercial Real Estate. She put that career aside many years ago, however, and has spent the last 11 years as Head of School for The Woodlands Christian Academy.
“Julie,” I frequently say to her, “we need to sit down and draw together sometime, just like when we were kids!”
Unfortunately, my sister keeps declining my invitation with answers such as, “Oh, I don’t know, Les. I’m so busy and I don’t even know if I could remember how to draw at this point. It’s been so long…” Her voice trails off and I sense the longing that lurks beneath the surface. One of these days, I’ll get her to do it. One of these days…
Unlike Julie, I have continued to draw and paint, though I haven’t really progressed since I was 14 years old. I am a trained, professional singer and actress, yet I am a completely self-taught artist. Mama was an elementary school art teacher when we were small children and she remained a lover of children’s art until the end of her life. She taught me to be fearless and unapologetic about my style as an artist. “It’s primitive and folksy but sophisticated at the same time,” she would say to me. “There are professional artists out there making a living doing just what you’re doing, Honey. Keep at it!”
And so, in my very limited spare time, I get out my paper and colored pencils, my watercolors and felt-tip pens and allow the images to flow from my innermost self. One day, I’ll follow Mama’s suggestion and experiment with gouache for a richer, more intense play of color. But for now, I allow that little girl part of me to express the world through her little girl eyes, all the while singing a crazy rendition of Mancini’s Pink Panther and paying tribute to Mama for her endless encouragement.