A funny thing about art

Published 7:08 pm Friday, March 3, 2023

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Back when I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I was a prolific reader of funny books. They all had a picture of the man wearing a toboggan on his head. “Draw Me!”

If you could draw the man really good, you might have the “potential” to be an artist. I practiced, and got real good. I wrote my name and address on the “mail this” box and asked Daddy to mail it.

“I’m writing off to be an artist.”

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Daddy said, no, it was just a trick to get your money.

When I primped up to cry, he said he would mail it.

The next day, he came home with a paint-by-number set for me. The picture was already drawn with a confusion of shapes with numbers on them but I could tell it was a farmer and a barn.

Daddy said for me to match the number with the color. It took me about two days but, when I finished, it was about the best painted picture I’d ever seen. Mama and Daddy said so, too.

Those “Draw Me” folks never wrote me, so, if Daddy had not bought me that paint set, I would never have known I was an artist.

Daddy liked to hunt so he bought him a paint-by-number paint set, too, with two pictures of bird dogs because he liked to hunt.

When Daddy finished his paintings, he put them in frames and Mama hung them over the fireplace.  I didn’t have a frame for mine so Mama couldn’t hang it. But it was on the bookshelf where everybody could see it. I was proud.

We were artists, Daddy and me.

One day, Mama’s friends from Henry County came to visit. They made a whole lot over Daddy’s paintings.  I guess they didn’t see mine.

“Who on earth painted these?” they asked.

Daddy said he did.

One of the ladies wrote Mama a note thanking her for the nice visit. She said they’d told everybody that her husband was an artist.

“They’ve told that all over Headland,” Mama said to Daddy. “You should have told them you painted by numbers.”

“They asked who painted them and I said I did,” Daddy said. “They didn’t ask how I painted them.”

I realized then that maybe Daddy wasn’t a real artist and maybe I wasn’t either.

Today, Daddy’s paint-by-number pictures are hanging on the fireplace in the den. My barn is hanging in the kitchen right where everybody comes in the door. If they ask who painted it, I say I did. Just maybe they think I’m an artist.