Recovering Art Major Goes Back to the Drawing Board

Christian Toto Daddylibrium drawing padIt’s taken me roughly 20 years to put my college education to use. Better absurdly late than never.

I wanted to be an artist ever since I bought my first comic book, or joke book as my dear Dad used to call them. I marveled at the artistry on every page, from the intensity of movement to the rogues gallery of villains parading in front of me.

That’s what I wanna do, my young mind screamed.

It wasn’t meant to be, despite collecting three art degrees during an extended college tour. I graduated without a clue as to how I could make a living with art. By then I was freelancing for The Roanoke Times and the notion that I could get paid for writing seemed natural. I had no formal training in journalism, but I felt more comfortable finding a writing gig than hauling my portfolio around to perspective clients.

That was then. Now, as a blogger in constant need of images I’ve decided to pick up my pencil again. With every drawing memories and lessons come rushing back to me. The professor who would give us extra credit if we inserted a dog into the picture. My buddy, an underwhelming talent who spent a semester in Italy and returned an artist reborn. And, of course, the instructor who took me aside to tell me what shattered my artistic dreams – “you’re talented but uptight.”

He was right. My images lack that fluidity that makes a Disney character pop off the screen. Or maybe my professor was describing me, not my portfolio. I was a cautious student, clinging to realistic portraits without any interest in more interpretive images. How … boring.

Drawing a Line to My Past

Remnants of my artistic life can still be found in our home. A painting I did of Chucky from “Child’s Play” hangs in the movie room. An acrylic portrait of an old family dog whose name I can’t quite place adorns my sons’ bedroom. The closest I ever came to abstract art, a closeup of two jelly jars, framed with a kiss of ambiguity, is part of our cluttered kitchen decor.

And that’s it. All those years – and student loan bills – and the best I have to show for it are paintings you could find in any TJ Maxx.

That changes now. I want to draw to remind myself of old dreams, to show my sons the spark of talent that they might inherit and improve upon.

The oddest thing about drawing again is that I haven’t lost a step. It’s like I’m still taking Still Life 101 at FIT in New York City, and my next assignment is due Friday. God bless muscle memory. All my strengths and weaknesses remain, from the way I leverage shadows to sculpt the human face to my struggles capturing a simple clenched fist.

God, I hate drawing fingers and toes.

It’s good for my sons to watch my journey, to see me try to better myself in a creative fashion. My boys still think coloring books are to be cut up with scissors. When we do have family art night they take an odd amount of pleasure in scribbling over my delicately rendered images of Spider-Man and the Hulk.

I may not be able to draw well enough to start a second career or even decorate this blog, but the least I can do is show my boys it’s worth the ol’ college try.


    • Christian Toto says

      I’ll definitely consider it! I’m still ramping up my confidence level, but once I’m there I’ll be in touch.

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