In the Eyes of a Child
by Bill Hudson
Growing up in Baltimore many years ago in the early 1950s, I looked forward to Saturday mornings when I could watch Jon Gnagy on our 10 inch Zenith, black and white, console TV. During a 30 minute episode of "You Are An Artist," Jon Gnagy would start and complete a charcoal drawing of an interesting topic like a guy catching a sword fish from his boat in the Gulf of Mexico. Not only did I learn about nature every Saturday, I soon realized that I too could draw.
At that same time, many kids in my neighborhood were getting "Paint-by-Numbers" oil painting sets which were invented, developed and marketed in 1950 by Max S. Klein. I was astonished by a painting done by my friend Alverta. The painting had a circus spotlight inside the Big Tent shining down on elephants in the center ring. I studied the way the light, and all objects behind it, changed color and value as it widened from its origin to its destination. To me it was amazing how it could be made to look even better than real life with just paint on a canvas.
Although I recall discovering what I like and have some talent in, I had ignored the lasting impact that art can have on a child. And, after deciding to pursue art later in life, I did not initially realize the gift that I can offer children. That is, until I began painting in public. When painting in my booth at art shows, or in a gallery, I have frequently stopped because I had a "feeling." Then I'd look up and see one or two children by my side focused like lasers on my painting. They become transfixed ... just as I was with Jon Gnagy. That realization that I'm giving children something they yearn for is multiplied many times over during "Career Day" when my only audience is a classroom filled with first through fifth graders.
Two of my daughters (Kimberly and Elizabeth) are teachers who helped organize and bring the annual Career Day to their nearby elementary schools. Both schools have similar agendas. About 25 adults in varied professions are invited to speak for 30 minutes to each of three consecutive classroom sessions. As we arrive, students take us to our assigned room and help carry our presentation materials. And with the sound of the bell, about 30 kids arrive for the first session.
I begin the class by emphasizing the importance of Career Day. I tell the kids that we are all unique and we all have great value. But none of us can be great at everything. That's why we need others who are good at things we aren't. It is very important to learn, to try things, and to study yourself. Discover what you love, what you are good at. Listen to others when they affirm your gifts or steer you to opportunities for growth. Don't be afraid to be different from your friends. Be ready to work hard because part of the enjoyment in life is getting better through perseverance.
We then focus on art and discuss visual arts, mediums, styles, composition, education requirements, occupational opportunities, and earnings. We discuss what makes objects appear close or far away. And then I do a quick painting. The kids are incredibly respectful and attentive as evidenced by their questions and answers. When the bell rings, I hand out 4x6 photos of my art and a framed photo-reproduction to the one student who happened to sit in the "lucky chair." As they leave, the next class comes rolling in.
Both schools have the kids write a letter to each of their Career Day instructors. I cherish those letters because I feel most children give sincere responses with heartfelt honesty. Many letters make me laugh and most letters remind me that I have done something of worth. Since the children can be between five to ten years old and some are still learning English, and others have difficulty writing and spelling, they all express themselves differently. But nearly all write a letter that often includes an original cartoon. I've included some extracts of their letters below. I've tried to duplicate the original spelling and punctuation. If you are an artist or any other professional who wants to help kids find their purpose, I strongly recommend your participation in "Career Day."
Dear Mr. Hudson,
Thank you for coming to Currillo Elementary. I appreshiate your time to come to Currillo to teach all of us your skill of art. You were very kind for helping us learn a new job because you could have had left us to read or do your job but you chose to come here to teach us your job and that means a lot to me.
The thing that I like about your job is that art can be any thing you like. For example you can just splater paint like emotions and it turns out beautiful. You can even earn a lot of money just from painting and its something you love so keep on painting!
Dear Mr. Bill Hudson
Thank you for coming to our school and telling us about your career as an artist. Also thank you for showing us how to draw basic pictures. Being an artist is a great career, but it takes a lot of skill and creativity. Even though I don't have a lot of skill in terms of art, but I think it's fun to learn what I can't really do. I hope you had a great time at Carrillo's Career Day.
Now, anyone can become an artist, from any age, even old people. Drawing + mind = pictures that are drawn from your own mind. I learned that when you're drawing. It's like you're learning something new, one of them is about yourself. Well, in the end, this career is hard to define, but easy to learn in a way. Once again, thank you for coming to our school, I hope you would come again and have a great time.
Dear Mr Hudsen
Thank you for coming to our school Leo Carrillo Elementary School. Thank you Berry much. I learned that you are a really awesome artist. You do something called seashore something like that Thanks for giving us 2 photos that was really nice. The one about your fence drawing was really cool.
I was kind of pist off when I didn't get the lucky prize but who cares I had lots of fun thanks.