I used to run an Art department in a big youth zone. We had a great team of artists, musicians and actors who would deliver fantastic art workshops night after night. At some of the sessions I would work alongside the visual artists and teach young people how to draw cartoons. I got to know some of them really well but the first thing any of them would say was, “I can’t draw”.
I can’t draw. You’re probably thinking the same and, if I could, I’d give you a pencil and tell you to make a mark. If you can make a mark you can draw. If you practice you’ll get better at drawing. So, maybe you can’t draw well… yet.
I remember one young man who would come over to the art area and doodle these brilliant little characters while we discussed films, music, and games. We also had some fascinating discussions about science and faith. I would compliment his drawing, give him a few tips and ask him if he might be interested in making them into a comic. He would tell me that his drawings were rubbish.
I made a badge from his drawing and put it on my lanyard. The next time I saw him I pointed to the badge, smiled and nodded. He smiled and shook his head. We would then sit down to talk and draw.
I put his drawings in the gallery and collected them into a folder with his name on. I would point to the badge, smile and nod. He would smile and shake his head.
After a while, some of the other young people began to compliment his artwork. I would point to the badge, smile and nod. He would smile and shake his head.
I was as relentless and annoying as only someone who cares can be.
It finally happened. I saw him approaching the art area. I pointed to the badge, smiled and nodded – he smiled and nodded back. That has to be one of the best moments of my time in youth work. With that nod he acknowledged what every one else knew – he was good enough.
As young people do, he got older and left the youth zone and time passed. When I moved on from my job one of my colleagues smiled and gave me an envelope. It was a hand made card with a thoughtful message and covered in his characters. They were, as you already know, brilliant.