Woman on the Beach

“Now a lot of you won’t like this assignment…” My painting teacher started while introducing our project. “Because it’s spontaneous—it cannot be planned.” My heart sank —I am a deliberate person. I like to know exactly what I am doing before I do it. With an encouraging look around the room, she handed out a Chinese poem about nature. We were to use magazine images and minimal paint to create something representing the poem.

We would then vote on the best project to put in the show. “It’s all about layering,” my teacher explained, handing me a poem with an excited glance. I forced a smile—I was convinced this would not turn out well. I looked at my blank board, unsure what to do. Dolefully, I flipped through a magazine, cutting out images but not thrilled with any. I picked up Time Out: Chicago, pessimistic about finding anything.

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I gazed over pages, quickly turning them; stopped, then slowly turned a few pages back. An image caught my eye: a woman sitting alone at a beach. Her back was turned; I could not see her face. It seemed to summarize what I felt the poem meant: inward reflection aided by one’s connection with nature. The woman’s back reminded me of how I approach not only art but life itself.

Challenged, I look inward to settle on an approach. I quickly cut the picture out. The next day my attitude changed completely. As I added more images and paint, I felt hopeful, even confident that the project would turn out well. I had no plan, but that was all right.

I found more images, used ink, created texture with a clay-like material, and even added glitter. I gave a final stroke of turquoise with my brush and held the piece at arms length. I tilted my head and smiled at the finished product. It was a swirl of letters, musical notes, and blue, with the woman as the centerpiece—but not obviously so. I was shocked that I created such a piece. We turned in our projects, had a critique, and voted on which piece to put in the show.

My teacher surprised me when she announced the chosen piece was mine. I was happy to be in the show but even more proud of what the project represented. I relate to the inward reflection of the woman sitting on the beach, for the project forced me to access myself in a way I never thought I could. Leaving my comfort zone, I gave the project my best effort despite my doubts. In the end, I made a piece I love, accurately reflecting the person and artist I am.

I discovered more about my capabilities and myself. Framed, the woman now sits in my house, forever stable and secure. My future, unlike hers, remains unknown. Yet, she provides me with a sense of comfort. Her image reminds me that I will always try my best—no matter the challenge.