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Jessica swept a sticky strand of blonde hair off her hace and tucked into the bun she´d carefully put up before class. She surveyed her otions and chose 4. Pale blue, pale yellow, cream, and light green. No. She put them back and looked again. This time, she went bolder. Red, Goldenrod, Green and Electric Blue. Yes. This was good. She walked over to her seat and carefully smoothed the edge of her smock out. Reattaching her tray, she gently placed the bottles in it. She stood back and sighed. A blank canvas. A new start. That´s basically what she was. She had just moved to Raleigh, North Carolina from Kansas City. During the first five minutes of her new life, she had bumped into seven people, spilled juice all over herself, was tardy to 2 classes and had dumped her books-and someone else´s-on the floor. Wow. She sighed again and got to work. The art teacher at her old school, Mr. Latmas, had always told her to be bold with her expressions. She basically had the shapes and shading and contrast, but her paintings looked like they belonged in her baby sister´s room. And she was an only child. She dipped her brush cautioustly into the red and made a broad stroke with the pointy tip of her paintbrush. She smiled. This was truly where she belonged. Someone came up behind her.
"I like that. It has good contrast, good shapes, good still life altogether, but you´re painting what you´re supposed to be painting." Jessica looked up in surprise. It was the teacher, Ms. Sharpe.
"But, I thought we were supposed to paint the fruit, and if we´re not supposed to paint something in particular, then what ARE we supposed to paint?" Ms. Sharpe didn´t answer. Instead, she put her hands over Jessica´s eyes.
"You are painting what you see. Or what you EXPECT to see. look at the hidden colors and shapes and reflections and really dig into this project." And with that, she left to go talk to some ninth graders that had walked into the room. Jessica was confused, but did what Ms. Sharpe said. She tried to look deeper. And it came out looking like- fruit. In a basket. Wow. Ms. Sharpe was disappointed with her and asked her to stay after class.
"You have a wonderful gift, Jessica. And I want you to use it. Just tonight, imagine yourself in a room with nothing else but a wall full of paints and and easel and canvas. Then think of fruit and paint it. No looking at anything. Paint what you think it would look like. This is a homework assignment for you and you alone. You may be excused now. But feel free to take any supplies you need." So Jessica took paint and canvas and went home. She did as Ms. Sharpe had said and it came out looking- like fruit, but blockier, and colorful, and, well, cool. Like something she´d once seen in a museum. When she turned it in on Friday, she felt prouder than she ever had of anything she´d ever done before. Ms. Sharpe studied it for a long time, then finally hung it on the board. Jessica sat down nervously. As students filed into the room, they pointed and whispered, and Jessica wasn´t sure if that was good or bad. Ms. Sharpe stood up and clapped twice, and a hush fell over the room. This lady meant buisness. "Expression." she said. "It´s a gift. A talent. And you all have it. And you all show it. Whether it´s through your art, music, writing or even phone conversations, you EXPRESS your feelings in one way or another. And, if this lovely painting does not have a name, I´d like to give it one. And the name I´d like to give it is: Expressions." She turned and nodded to Jessica, who felt that Ms. Sharpe didn´t care whether it had a name or not. Jessica offered up a half smile, and everyone clapped.
Expressions went into a competition, first schoolwide, then countywide, then statewide, and finally countrywide, which it placed 7th in, among high school and college student´s paintings. And then, when it came back to Raleigh, Jessica recognized it like an old friend. And in a way, it was.