Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge Day 28 #HAWMC: The first time I…

  • 28 April 2012

It’s Day 28 of the WEGO Health Activist Writer’s Month, in which participants are directed to write each day about a health issue.

Today’s Prompt: The First Time I…

Write a post about the first time you did something. What is it? What was it like? What did you learn from it?

The first time I ever drew a caricature took place in my sophomore art class in high school. At that point I knew nothing about caricatures except what I’d seen in political cartoons on the editorial page of the newspaper. In the typical lampoon style of these cartoons, the President or a Congressman bore a Pinocchio nose.

The art teacher instructed us to make a pictorial representation of ourselves in which our distinctive features or peculiarities are deliberately exaggerated to produce a comic or grotesque effect. What? Can you imagine a teenage girl capturing herself in a drawing that grossly exaggerated her noticeable features, making her an object of ridicule? No way did I want to do that. Beauty issues reign supreme in the minds of sixteen-year-olds. But do it I must, if I wanted a decent grade.

As my pecularities, I chose my nose and my glasses, the parts of my face that bothered me the most. After this exercise–and even before–it occurred to me to get plastic surgery so I could minimize the trauma. I didn’t want any of my classmates to see what I was doing. But curiosity impelled us all to sneak a peek at each other’s burlesque portraits. When I completed mine, I presented it to the teacher in a folder, hoping it would be graded and returned in the same discreet manner. Instead she displayed each piece of work on the classroom wall.

I didn’t get out of it.

What I gleaned from this first-time lesson was not to be so harsh on myself. That message harkens back to the prompt we had on Day 10 of the WEGO challenge this month: “Dear sixteen-year-old me“.

Once I finished the self-parody, I decided to include my parents in a family caricature. The pencil drawing below is one I just found in a scrapbook my mother had assembled and saved. Since it is rendered in pencil, it is hard to see, but one can’t miss the drooping glasses.

Jan’s caricature in high school of Mom, Dad and herself

My art teacher had a reason for giving her students this assignment in self-critical analysis. Obviously we weren’t all studying to be political cartoonists, but we did need a means to express ourselves other than through writing. Perhaps my instructor took her cue from Goya. This famous Spanish painter seemed to rely on satiric art rather than writing to express himself.  According to the 100Swallows blog post on the Best Artists,

He was awkward at it [writing] and ended even this choppy letter with a drawing—a caricature of himself.  “I’m like this,” he says. He was always making fun of his own flat nose and here he makes his face into a crescent moon.

Goya may not have spoken much anymore, and he hated to write.  But he was all the same the greatest communicator of them all.  Few men in any time have been able to bring out of themselves and show so much of a deep and complex world.

I have learned much since the first time I drew this effigy of myself. I’ve learned to use humor in the form of artwork as a communication tool, as Goya did so eloquently. It’s time to dust off my pen and ink and create a new self-caricature. It would look quite different this time–and not just because of the weathering of my face over the decades. I’m a new edition, a more confident version of myself, ready to tell the world who I really am.

Do you remember the first time you attempted something? Did you learn a lesson from it?

  • Renn

    Very inventive and ingenious approach to this challenge! I like this first time! I’m about to write mine now. (Can you tell I am stalling? LOL!)

  • jhasak

    Thanks, Renn! I know what you mean about stalling. Sometimes we need to do take some deep breaths before giving a jumpstart to our muse. Thanks for visiting. xxx

  • Marie Ennis-O’Connor (@JBBC)

    Each day I learn more about you Jan through this writing challenge – another honest and touching post – thank you for sharing.

  • jhasak

    Thank you so much, Marie, for your feedback. Maybe I’m too honest sometimes, but I hope I can help some others by being transparent. We’re almost at the finish line of this challenge. And indeed, I will miss it. xxx