Above: A photo from that year at summer camp. I definitely took this picture off of someone's Facebook. Josh is the one on the far right. He still wears that shirt sometimes.
This is a story about art I made because of a boy. (Spoiler alert: we got married. Sorry to ruin the ending.) I cleaned out my studio last week and found an entire crate of sketchbooks and journals. A lot of the work in those sketchbooks shaped my future as an artist today. And a lot of those pages are filled with stuff about a boy. His name is Josh. Today I’m going back to the time we met. It’s a prequel to a lot of the art that came later. I have no paintings of this one, just a story, a photo, and a poem.
When I was 14, I went to a whitewater rafting camp in West Virginia. It was a camp for high school kids, but I was younger than a lot of the girls in my cabin. I remember feeling shy.
One day I found myself sitting at the piano in the dining hall. It must have been just before or just after dinner, because I remember a handful of workers wiping down tables and moving about the kitchen. I sat and filled the room with bits of Chopin, Kabalevsky, and Mozart. (Yeah, I was the nerd who played classical piano because it felt safer than flirting with high school boys.) After finishing one song, I heard a voice behind me:
“That was really beautiful. You should sing, too.”
His name was Josh, and he was 18. He was the object of much flirtation; my cabin had an ongoing prank war against him. He had longish blond hair and deep blue eyes and was the kind of boy that girls would call “beautiful”.
I was embarrassed by his attention. I mumbled something like “oh, thanks, I guess.” And that was it. He left me sitting alone, my face burning. I stood, closed the cover to the piano, and left.
For some reason, we both remember this brief interaction vividly. Years later, I wrote a poem about it. Because, you know, that's what angsty teenagers do.
It was a beginning, a prequel. A lot came of that little moment. And I have loads of sketchbooks to show for it. You can see the first page of my sketchbook and read what happened next here.