His tattered denims and uncombed strands of white and gray only complemented the paint-splattered walls of his musty studio. When I was three feet shorter, this felt foreign and unpleasant. It was too different from the pristine white fumes radiating from all fours that my younger self had familiarized herself with. The coldness and pitter-patter running across the meticulously-placed marble was replaced by patches of varying roughness and tunes. My virgin hands became sullied by the splotches of wet reds and blues as they danced around the canvas. Yet I soon found haven in this broken-down apartment room and the frayed clothes on his skin.
Now, at sixteen, these same walls and ripped clothes feel like home. They embraced me even when I became a criminal at ten, applauding my boldness when my English teacher gave me disdainful looks and poor marks as I purposely colored outside the lines. Hearing the opening creak, I am met with the comfort of the magenta heel undeliberately stained on the wall and greeted with the growing brotherhood of black dust that consumes the already tinted air. It singes my lungs and gropes around my throat before finding my familiarity and quickly letting go.
He emerges wearing the same shredded blues as last week. The same black trench and plaid tucked closely to his skin. Holding the same bamboo stick as he points at my vulnerability. He rips away the carbon copies I produce, and forcibly grabs the drab yellow stick I craft my subjects with, planting a more permanent black fixture in my hand to prevent me from recrafting over and over until the monotony of gray and pink strokes beat my white sheet and taint it for eternity. Through him, my white palette of unmistakable reds and yellows and greens turned into mixtures of what appeared to be vermillion with specks of cinnabar and a spot of gold. Together they fused to produce a new shade of juniper that would never have existed without the unrestricted encouragement to blend and experiment with colors, which my younger self would have recognized as unartful.
Under his guidance, I moved away from producing carbon copies and mirror images: anyone could do that. The once distinct spheres of art and creativity began to fuse together as if they were separate blobs of color waiting to flower into a new shade that brought me closer to understanding “art.” As I built my technical skills through endless etchings of spheres and cylinders, it was no longer about white-glove strokes and formulas. Instead, it was about using the same black charcoal to create a myriad of lines and forms, each with their own livity. It was about painting cherries with their own curves and angles and colors and textures, and purposefully distorting perspective. It was about purposefully elongating and contorting objects to add personality and develop my own unfollowable style.
While I reside in Picasso’s shadow during carbon copy art projects in English class, his broken-down walls and frayed garments gave birth to my own shadow.
Diana Qing is a student at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, California. She is passionate about exploring the intersectionality between writing, art, and cultural identity. Her writing focuses on capturing unconventional ideas and marginalized voices, specifically stories from voices who are unrepresented or forgotten in her community, in order to detail the human experience from less heard of perspectives. She believes in the power of words to help reclaim forgotten narratives and bring attention to global issues. Her work has been featured in TeenInk (Editor’s Choice Award) and the Eunoia Review, and she is also an alumna of the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop.