Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Seeing Red

     Now that Halloween has come and gone I can’t help but reflect on how inventive and imaginative people are out there in the Blogosphere. Such talent and creativity! It makes me think back to the time I decided to become an artist.  
     I grew up seeing red.     
     When I was a kid my parents bought a painting of a bull fight. During my formative years it hung in our living room. The picture was hardly unique; over the years I’ve seen hundreds of similar pictures, most worse than this one, but I grew up staring at that matador swirling his red cape in front of a charging bull. 
     Few homes on our street had original artwork, and this was the first real painting I’d seen. Even as a kid I didn’t think much of it; the matador didn’t look like a living breathing person, and the bull wasn’t quite right. But there was a single stroke of magic in the picture.  
     While the artist was painting the red cape, he wiped his loaded brush on the side of the black bull. A simple stroke of paint, but the effect was miraculous. From the far side of our living room that stroke of red paint looked like hot shiny bull sweat picking up the red reflection of the cape. Mesmerized, I would climb up on the couch beneath the painting and press my nose to the picture—and see only red and black paint. 
     No magic.
     I wanted to pinpoint the moment my eye worked this miracle, the moment that single stroke of red paint transformed into hot, wet bull sweat. I’d jump off the couch and take a step back. No transformation. Another step—nothing. Back a little more and…there it was—the magic. For a while I did this daily until it scared the bejeezus out of my mother.
     “What do you think you’re doing?” she asked one day when I was perched on the back of the couch with my nose pressed to the canvas.
     I didn’t feel capable of explaining that I was trying to pinpoint an optical phenomenon, so I said, “I’ve decided to be a painter when I grow up.”
     She looked relieved. “Thank God! You had me worried for a minute.”
     “I did? Why?”
     “I was worried you were going to tell me you wanted to be a matador!”

What did you want to be when you grew up? 


  1. Almost as bad as telling your parents you want a degree in theater ;-)

  2. I'm confused: Aren't a painter and a matador the same thing? At least, I'm pretty sure they have the same passion.

    Regardless, you made a good choice.

    P.S. I made it over from littlesprite's blog, so my commenting here shouldn't be creepy.

    ... right?

  3. I really like this story, Stephen. I wanted to be an artist/painter, and a teacher, an architect and psychologist. Thus I've settled into writing and social work.

  4. I wanted to be either a hairdresser or an ice-skater when I was little. I didn't have any skates, nor had I ever skated, but I'd seen it on TV and it looked great. Not sure why I wanted to be a hairdresser. Later, I wanted to be a translator at the UN as I loved learning foreign languages at school.

    Naturally, I ended up in IT.

  5. What I've wanted to be has morphed over the years. As a youngster I wanted to be a pilot and fly supersonic jet fighters. Less-than-perfect eyesight nixed that idea. Then right about puberty I decided I wanted to be a social reformer. Specifically, I wanted to be the first boy admitted into the Girl Scouts. I was apparently ahead of my time with that one. My eventual profession (custom homebuilding) just fell into my lap, so I went along no questions asked. Now, after doing that for 36 years, I just want to retire.


  6. I wanted to do something that was not the stereotypical work for women...secretary or nurse. So I thought about the military, but they had women type and file. Well that's being a secretary kind of person. So I became a cop. It was a wonderful career and one that was just right for me.

    Have a terrific day. :)

  7. Excellent story. The earliest thing I can remember wanting to be is an oceanographer, which tells you what kind of kid I was. I gave up on that after coming to the conclusion that Ranger Rick was full of crap about tidal pools and that they don't exist.

    But then recently I saw a nature special and realized that there really are people who spend their days in beach houses and on boats and studying dolphins and things, and I got really jealous and mad at my younger self.

    That's the thing about some occupations; if you want to be, say, a singer and give up on that, you can still go do karaoke or be in a garage band or record yourself on Youtube. But me? If I wanted to pursue that part time, I'd just be a dolphin-hassler. Not cool.

  8. I once horrified my mother by telling the vicar when he asked me, that I intended to be a burglar.

    It didn't work out that way.