The most influential person in my life was my art teacher. Her name was Barbara Bassett. I learned more from her in that short few years than I’ve learned in all the rest of my life combined. I think I brought my potential for art with me, but she was like a gardener; watering, feeding, nurturing, talking to that artist within me. Even more, she invested herself in me, because she believed in me. She saw the potential and she didn’t let me slide. Her art school was above a shop on Main Street in Winter Park, Florida. To get to her school, you had to go to the back of the store and take a flight of steps up. The school was small with a couple of tables that seated perhaps eight or ten students. I can recall little about any of the other students. They were there, but I don’t recall getting to know even one. I don’t know why.
The back room of the school was where art supplies were kept. There was a sink, a counter, and lots of shelves full of stuff. I loved it.
That was a golden time in my life and I didn’t even realize it. My path has introduced me to many people who have had very kind words for me, words of encouragement, words of praise for my art. Such words are a balm to my soul and nurture the artist within. Mrs. Bassett didn’t say, “Shelley, you’re a great artist.” Yet her efforts to teach me told me that I was an artist and that I was headed in a good direction with it. It told me that I was worth her effort to teach me. I had never been worth anyone’s time before. I was in a hurry to get there and she made me slow down. When I finished a six week project in one week, she made me start over. There were times when I thought she was even a meany, when I thought she was picking on me. I asked her about it years later and she said, “I was hard on you because you had so much potential, but you lacked discipline.”
I’ve never wanted to be a teacher. I’m a long-term learner. I can’t get enough. Learning makes me feel alive. If college were free, I’d be a forever student. I’d have fifty degrees. I buy books before I buy food or clothes.
Here I am though. I have begun to teach art. I had my first student for two weeks. It was a seven week class, but he changed jobs mid-stream and had to drop out. I now have a second student. She comes to the studio at the cabin. I don’t have enough students to warrant having a cool art school in the upstairs of some store. But I have a wonderful studio here at the cabin. It’s a great environment for learning and for doing art.
Much to my surprise, I have begun to love teaching about art. It’s so exciting to see someone go from “I can’t draw anything” to “Wow! I drew something!” I spend hours preparing what I’m going to teach, which fulfills my need to learn. Even though I’ve been drawing and painting my entire life, when I go online and look up the latest art techniques and tools, I learn. When I explain those techniques to a student, I learn again. When I explain to my student why they’re doing something, their face lights up and they say, “Oh! I see!” and I feel amazingly fulfilled.
“Please, sir, may I have some more!” as Oliver would say.