Of Art and War

Some people follow celebrities on Twitter. I follow the artists behind the web and print comics I love or that I’ve met at SPX. Let’s pretend that maybe I’m living vicariously through them because I work at a creative 8-5 job that is not particularly fulfilling right now. Let’s also pretend that’s not creepy.

Anyway, they were discussing grade school art rivals, which I hadn’t thought about for YEARS.

I recall drawing two main subjects in gradeschool. One was dragons, which is easily explained when you recognized that most of the books in my family’s house were fantasy books and I was inspired by their dragon/warrior/magic-tastic covers. The other subject was Human Killing Machines, which usually involved a Mouse Trap-like assortment of tubes, blades and inevitably ended with a toothed funnel of death. Usually there was a human falling into the tunnel.

Sorry, mom and dad.

Thankfully, a few later years my subject matter tamed considerably.

Fifth grade is when I met my rival, and I think his name was Timothy Blake. He was skinny with big eyes, freckles and a bowl cut. I wanted to have a crush on him, but he kept dragging drawing into it. I found myself in this sort of Art War with him during the class’s free times.

“Let’s have a drawing contest,” he’d begin. Or, occasionally, “I’m a better artist than you.”

I should note that my brain reserved the term “artist” for Michelangelo, El Greco and that guy that drew Calvin and Hobbes. I always considered myself a “drawer” instead. Not this guy, he was already an Arteest.

Then the challenge: what to draw. Smelling the possibility of an impending loser, some fellow students would gather around us to discuss the subject. Ninja Turtles, GI Joe and other cartoons were always a popular option. My vote was always for Bart Simpson (I’d practiced him a lot) or horses, because I am a girl and we draw a lot of horses. My cousins also had a farm, which I felt further qualified my horse legitimacy. I recall I could also do a pretty good killer whale.

But no, absolutely not. Blake would not draw anything but people. Not cartoons, but realistic people. He would withdraw if everyone didn’t agree that we’d draw people, and the blood-thirsty crowd would cave because, you know, ridicule to kids is like honey to bees when you’re twelve.

Truth be told, I remember thinking at the time that he was a better “drawer” than I was, at least until he started shading — and no project was complete without shading. Homey must have gone through five pencils a day, leaving the imprint of his artwork on desktops all over the room. Hair, cheeks, noses, lips, neck, eyes — everything got darkly shaded to all hell until the sheet was smudgey from the butt of his hand and near-solid dark shade of grey.

This was his doom, and I usually “won” these competitions because of it. I remember telling him once to lighten up on the shading and he’d beat me every time; not only was he absolutely incensed, he gave me an extensive drawing lesson right then and there that I’m sure neither one of us understood.

I think he moved away the year after fifth grade, since I don’t remember seeing him around the middle school. Who knows, though. I’d kind of like to track him down, if only to see if my memory serves correctly. My story-telling gets hazy moments after something happens, and our Art Wars were more than 15 years ago. Who knows if I’ve even got it right. Maybe he won every battle in spectacular fashion, the class carrying him on their shoulders, him waving his tiny, spent pencil stub in triumph.

Actually, I kind of like that better. Let’s pretend it happened like that.

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