Drawing Is Our Super Power

When do we get to use it in the real world?

By Dulce Zamora

My daughters, Sienna and Jasmine, love to draw. They sketch wherever they go. As long as they have paper and a writing instrument, they’re happy.

Drawn by Sienna, 12 years old.
Drawn by Jasmine, 9 years old.
Drawn by Jasmine. In progress.

Reminds me of my childhood. I loved to draw on the insides of large cigarette boxes. My parents owned a grocery store in the Philippines. One of the things they sold was cigarettes. The individual packs came in bigger boxes. The store employees would unglue the cardboard containers and keep them in a big stack for me. Once deconstructed, I think the boxes were slightly longer and about as wide as 12 x 12 – inch scrapbook papers. The surface was smooth. The cardboard was firm. It was a perfect white canvas. Each stroke of my pen sank deliciously into the paper, deep into a world I created. I drew girls and wrote stories about their adventures. I wish I could remember what some of those stories were.

Drawn by Sienna.

I do remember watching my mom draw. She was/is an amazing artist. I always tried to copy her illustrations. As an adult, she drew fashion models wearing different attire. When she was younger, she used sticks to sketch her pictures in the dirt. Her favorite childhood memories include climbing fruit trees to get a snack, and drawing pictures on the ground.

I asked my mother if she ever thought about being an artist. She said her family could not afford to send her to art school. Anyone who wanted to become an artist had to go to Manila. They lived in Angeles city, a province about 52 miles (83 km) northwest of the capital. Mom did say that my Grandma Africa — Ima, as we called her — studied Fine Arts at a university in Manila. However, she did not finish her coursework. My mom believes Ima’s parents sent her home, because they were afraid she’d acquire a boyfriend and end up getting married too soon.

“Ima was beautiful, and had lots of admirers,” said Mom.

Ima eventually became a dressmaker with a staff of 10 seamstresses. She had a stall at the local market. Mom said Ima bought dress patterns from the Sears catalog through Clark Air Base, the U.S. military installation near Angeles City. However, many times, Ima would draft her own designs straight unto the fabric. If there is anything I remember about my grandmother, it’s that she is gutsy and determined.

I miss Ima. I wish I had known more about her career before she died. I would ask about art and fashion during her youth. I would ask what it was like to be successful businesswoman when most women stayed at home. I would ask how she felt when her husband (my grandfather) asked her to give up the business to take care of the children. She ended up raising of 9 kids, including my mom.

When I see my daughters draw, I can’t help but think about my grandmother, my mother, and me. We all love to draw. In the Philippines, Ima studied art but had to quit, because of her parents’ fear. She ended up having a career designing dresses, but she had to give that up, too, for her family. My mom didn’t have a chance to pursue art, because her family could not afford it. I considered becoming a fashion designer or an illustrator, because everyone said I was a good artist. As an immigrant in the U.S., however, I didn’t know any thing about pursuing an artistic career. It wasn’t in my frame of mind to look for the information, because I didn’t know it existed. Plus, I don’t know if I had the necessary resources to pursue it back then. (I barely became a writer, but that’s another story.)

Now, my family and I are Asian-American expats in Singapore. My girls attend an international school where there are plenty of resources for all sorts of careers. If my daughters decide they want to pursue a career in illustration or fashion design, we know we can research the possibilities. I have enough world experience now that if I don’t know something, I know I can look into it.

I also think about the education that my girls are now fortunate enough to receive. For instance, Sienna and Jasmine learned about the color wheel in elementary school, and they are now learning about more advanced art concepts. I learned about the color wheel in high school, and that’s about it. I wonder if the more advanced stuff was always available, but my family either didn’t know about it, nor did we have the resources to pursue it. In high school, I had a classmate who dreamed about going to art school. I remember she had a portfolio. Who told her she needed one? How did she know what to do?

With our drawings, I think about our family history and legacy. We have a tradition of illustrating designs and stories. Maybe one day we’ll be able to do something with it, something beyond pleasure (which is wonderful in and of itself, too). One thing is for sure: Having talent is not enough. To succeed in living a life that is resonant with who we are, we also need determination, hard work, support, resources, and guidance from those in the know. Maybe our time to share our gifts, our inherited light, will come one day. Hopefully soon.

© 2019 Windswept Wildflower

Illustrated by Jasmine.

Illustrated by Sienna.
Illustrated by Dulce.
Illustrated by my mom, Lilia.

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