Crushed Like A Cigarette Butt

When I was at U.C. Santa Cruz, in the art department, in the early nineties, I thought I was in heaven. I spent hours each day painting with oils, in the studio on campus. I worked very hard. I took my painting, sculpture, and mixed media classes very seriously. I wasn’t there just to play, as had been the case when I attended U.C. Santa Barbara right out of high school.

So, when I went to my evaluation, by a teacher I didn’t know, who decided whether or not students could move on to the upper division art classes, I felt confident. My small circle of friends who had been through the same process, had all gotten the okay to move forward into the more advanced art classes.

I don’t even remember her name. But the teacher who judged my work was in her 40’s, with long dark hair. She had the opportunity to take in several of my recent pieces. I was very excited about becoming an advanced student.

But, that didn’t happen. She declared that my work wasn’t developed enough. She seemed to feel joy when she shared this knowledge with me. My face fell to the earth. I was in shock.

She told me that I needed to take more beginning art classes, and that I wouldn’t be able to move on with my friends who had all received the okay with their own work.

This event absolutely crushed me. All of the teachers that I had taken classes with impressed upon this road block, that I was a serious student, who did very good work. They were incensed by her decision. She would not budge.

So, I proceeded to have a nervous breakdown, and left college, feeling ashamed and having the sense that I wasn’t the artist that I had imagined myself to be. I never finished college.

This woman appeared to revel in her position of power. I almost felt she was laughing at me internally, when she voiced her opinion of my work. I feel anger towards her still, and have thought of finding out who she was, and sending her a letter.

Though I’ve done drawing and painting since a young age, and that fed me more than anything else I’ve ever done, I stopped painting. I continued to work in other mediums, but have had intense insecurity over my level of talent.

Recently, a friend asked me to paint a turtle totem on his drum. I did so, and had a great time. I did a few sketches, then transferred one onto the drum. I painted it with acrylic paints.


I had so much fun with this, that I decided to venture into another totem animal painting. My friend feels connected to the cheetah. This is more of a tiger, as I wanted to avoid all of the spots! She is purchasing it from me.


This third piece I did, is a rat totem. A man who I have a terrible crush on, who is in a relationship, was born under this sign, on the Chinese Zodiac. I truly had fun with it. I was kind of surprised with how well it came out. Especially for someone who supposedly has little talent. It’s not completely finished, but it’s close.


I am going to continue painting in this vein. I’ve decided that the best revenge is to keep painting, and perhaps even sell my work. That evil teacher came close to crushing me completely. I went through intense depression, in part resulting from her determination that I wasn’t adequate enough to be a serious painter. I even made several suicide attempts. I can’t blame this all on her, but she certainly didn’t help my self-esteem.

I am rising out of the rubble, and redefining myself. I’m very close to being half a century old. It’s taken a great deal of perseverance and soul-searching to get where I am today. My deepest joy and fulfillment will be to paint, and paint, and paint some more. Because this is my passion.


  1. I’m glad you’re painting again! This professor needs to be kicked in the taco IMO.

    And yes! You could totally sell that work. I’d totally commission a piece if I weren’t in the middle of trying to build a house. When the house is done, it’s on (if you’re sill taking new clients, that is😊)

  2. Thanks so much, Cynthia! I would love to do a painting for you. What animal would you like? I’m painting a bunch now, so I can try to get them into a local gallery. I’m sure I’ll still be taking on new clients, once you’re done with your house:)

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