Many Roads to Get to Happy (book blog)

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment- Emerson

Todd and I attended the Tyler School of Arts’ Graphic Design opening of the magnificent ‘Restaurant Project.’ Students needed to design a make-believe restaurant, come up with a theme, an accompanying menu, take-out bag and any extras they could come up with. Bryce is an illustrator. He has been an illustrator ever since he was 4 years old and began to draw things like whales with party hats (1st drawing) and illustrate what was in his incredible mind. He wanted to draw with a tool in his hand and he wanted to create a pop-up menu, fun-loving lad that he is. Bryce’s restaurant was called ‘Beanstalk’- Fairy Tales, Friends & Food, and he had to write all the copy related to Fairy Tales. Now, of course, it was not going to be a sweetness and light, happy little menu but creepy. Always on the creepy side.

So when we went down to Tyler School of Art at Temple and attended the Restaurant opening and were thrilled to learn that he won first place for MENU.

Throughout the course of the project, however, which lasted months,  Bryce struggled with what he wanted to do, his vision, and also pleasing his professor. It was challenging to decide who to please and finding a balance, for his professor was extremely hard to please.

When we went down to Tyler for the opening,I knew I might meet this  professor and I was already concerned over how our conversation would go down. The topic was Bryce’s future as an illustrator.

“I know Bryce likes to illustrate and he is a very good illustrator, but it is an extremely competitive area to get into,” said the professor.

And I said, “Well, that is what he has always wanted to do- write and illustrate books- for as long as he can remember.”

“But is it sooooo competitive. He really should take more computer classes  and go into graphic design FIRST.” 

And I said, “He does not WANT to be a graphic designer. He wants to be an illustrator. ”

“I’ve encouraged him to get into web designing first. That would be easier.”

And I said, ‘Bryce does not want to design websites. He does not even like the computer. He wants to illustrate with a tool in his hand. This is what makes him happy.  His first choice of school was not Tyler, where Graphic Design reigns supreme. It was University of the Arts whose Illustration program is unrivaled. But we could not afford to send him there and so he is at Tyler, where Illustrators are in the minority.”

About this time in the conversation, another mother walked by and said out loud, “Tiger Mother!” The woman was referring to the overpowering Chinese mother in the book  Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother  by Amy Chua and I knew it was not a compliment. I flashed her a look.

Once more the professor said, “It’s just very very competitive out there in the illustration world. I would not encourage him to start there.” 

Right about now, my blood pressure was rising and my mouth was about to say things that I may not have any control over and might  regret later. I was looking over at Bryce who was standing next to both and was visibly sweating. I knew that this professor found flaw after flaw with my son’s menu, as he did with every students. Even now, at the grand opening of the show, he dwelled on  what was still not right instead of complimenting the students on a job well done. And although Bryce won first place for his Menu, this prize was not delivered by his professor, but by an outside judge, a very prestigious New York designer, much to the professor’s chagrin.

Now I knew that this professor did not have a clue on how this budding illustrator had been raised- to love life, seek happiness, value freedom and independence, to follow his heart and NOT chase after the almighty dollar. He also did not know that because of my son’s talent and brains, he received enough scholarships that he did not have to worry about debt when he graduated and could be a little flexible in what he pursued. And, he did not know who his mother is.

“Well, I am an author who has illustrated four of my six published books and I am working on a new one. Bryce will be illustrating it. I’m hoping it will help him get started.”

And everything changed. The professor started to stumble on his words and blurted out , “Really? Well that would be great. That would be a wonderful start for him. ”

After the opening, the professor began sharing illustration contests with Bryce and offered to critique and help him with my book illustrations.

I was glad I opened my mouth but also very glad I did not say anything I would regret later. And if this is what a Tiger Mother does- defends her son’s true heart, then let the name calling continue.

Bryce claims he learned a lot from this professor and I’m sure he did. But when I was at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, I had a painting professor who was very hard on me. After two years, I wanted to transfer to a professional art school, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and I only had one painting class to show for myself. No matter how hard I tried and how diligent I worked, I received straight D’s for grades. I was freaking. Why would they want me at the Academy with a painting grade like this? I applied anyway and at the end of that semester, I received an A+ in Painting. When I questioned the prof, he replied, “That was the grade you truly deserved all along but I didn’t think you would work up to your potential if I gave it to you.” OK!

Other students may have listened to the prof and the negative voices in their heads and thought, “I am no good.” Since I was blessed with being completely deaf to any voices, they never interfered with my quest. But he could have destroyed my future, He could have smashed my dreams. He could have set me on a downward spiral of thinking very little of myself. Just like Bryce’s professor could direct him down a path that was not his true direction if he was not strong enough and did not believe in his own vision.

A Graphic Design artist/friend of mine for many years disagrees with me on how these types of professors treat their students. When Bryce first went to art school, he reported profs who were so hard on the students that they habitually made them cry in class, saying how terrible they were at the art. They said it was to sift the wheat from the chaff.

My artist friend said that this type of bullying is necessary. That this is the way it is going to be in the real world and I should  take the prof’s part. I begged to differ. I do not believe any human being has the right to belittle another, especially a fragile student, especially a fragile freshman. It is so easy to fail at college as it is. I believe we should be building one another up, including the professors who get paid so much money to teach our children at the universities that, in turn, cost a tremendous amount of money. I think there should ONLY be supreme support and TEACHING, not trashing. Trashing does nothing positive for a person, especially a vulnerable young student who is trying very hard to believe in themselves.

Bryce is pretty strong of heart when it comes to knowing what he wants to do with his life, what makes him happy. Still, he periodically has lapses where he says, “Everyone in school is serving internships at graphic design firms. Do you think I should be too?” And I reply, “You don’t want to be a graphic designer. You want to illustrate.  Your life, you work, your job, can look completely different from EVERYONE else’s at that school. You are on your own path to happy which is individual. Do not ever compare yourself to anyone else. Do not ever let anyone sway you to be someone who does not resonate with your heart.”     GROWL!


11 thoughts on “Many Roads to Get to Happy (book blog) Leave a comment

  1. Good on you, Cindy! How important for all of us to know ourselves and our unique path to “happy” and to “shalom!” I would love to see your new book and Bryce’s illustrations…and would love to check out his menu, too! I’ve always been a fan of wonderful and creatve minds!!! Lots of prayers and good thoughts to you! Thanks for sharing all of this!

    1. Hey Sister Michele- thanks for writing and so very glad to connect on FB and here- It really does take a village to raise children the best way and you were part of that big family in helping me raise such marvelous children (as you were in helping many many other children BECOME something good and big and important) and we thank you for that! Stay tuned for some more book blogs that I have just written on that very subject!

      1. Cindy, Of course I found this interesting and well-written. You are right, but the prof who insisted that illustration is competitive also has a point. I say those words often. There are fewer illustration gigs that pay a living wage every year, relative to the number of graduating illustrators. In Bryce’s case, though, there is always room at the top!

      2. Hey thank you for the reply- you are right too- that school is so competitive- graphic design there is so competitive- Bryce isn’t into competition. He is like his dad- he just wants to do his work and be happy doing it- if someone appreciates it and sees his gift, great- if not, he’s happy painting houses on the side and living the life that he wants- doing his art the way that he wants. Thank you for your support!I KNOW you are one fine teacher and I am still sorry that Bryce never got to experience your expertise!

  2. Cindy; I agree and disagree with you. 1st the professor should not belittle. He correctly should point out mistakes and how something could be improved, but should also point out the positive aspects of someones work. Bryce will have to come to terms with the fact that the future is learning how to use the computer. With my limited experience I have found that you can be creative in using its tools. Walter Axsmith

    1. hey Walt- thanks for your reply- Bryce has taken many computer classes on all levels and has gotten A’s- he does it but doesn’t like it- he still likes to draw by hand and then scan his work in and then manipulate it- which is fine- believe me, he would not get away with earning a Graphic Design degree from that school and not knowing how to work computer programs- but that does not mean he has to go the usual path of progression to success- thanks dear!

  3. Great Story! Way to go! I’m with you Cindy… Dana had such a critical art teacher when she was homeschooling in what would be 8th gd., she never took another art course til college.. though I begged and pleaded w/ her and even tried to set up having my friends tutor her in art… Also she found out that the art teachers at WT were also very critical… so she refused to take any art there, denying herself her favorite avenue of creativity… So of course she had no portfolio and could not even apply to an art program for college.. Lucky Dana was talented and determined enough to jump back into art in college by taking some basic skill building classes to catch up. And I knew we were on the right track when R and I visited her in DC her first semester at American Univ… One of her teachers had set up a contest with NYC judges and Dana won first place! 🙂 We were fortunate to be able to go to that show and meet her prof.

    While at WT I wanted to take on the art teachers for criticizing so severely, but was told not to do so… But even last year after I had left I was still consoling families whose kids had been unfairly criticized by this one particular teacher… I guess it’s kind of like med school abuses, since it has always been done that way it continues. Sad situation..

    ~ Lee

    1. thank you dear for this insightful reply and sharing your and Dana’s story- it is amazing how much power we have over one another as human beings- to lift one another higher or break each other down. As parents we can only do one thing- support support, support. I love you friend!

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