1997, I took an art class during summer school. The teacher, who also substitute-taught and ran the day care, taught us how to draw [Aryan] facial and bodily proportions. She included pencils, chalk pastels, oil pastels and watercolors in the class, which took place in the school library so we could copy pictures out of books. I soaked it up, combining parts of pictures to create something new and experimenting with perspective. Our final project was to draw something in chalk pastels on a large sheet of butcher paper.
In the 70's, my mother took a remedial painting class. Her high-quality acrylics and paintbrushes sat in a tacklebox under a spare bed those 20+ years. On the backside of that butcher paper, I glued down sections that I had cut out from a floral Tiffany calendar and then painted the rest: a flowery landscape with an ocean, mountains in the distance and a sunset/rise. At 11 years of age, I did this completely on my own.
Immediately after finishing my first painting, I, with permission, painted a mural of a vivid sunset on my bedroom wall. Cobalt, navy blue and indigo clouds lined with bright red highlights from the marigold sun. My cousin took notice of my newfound love of art and began taking me to a figure drawing studio. She wholeheartedly supported my passion and still does today.
When I first began painting, my mother asked me "how do you know where to put what color?"
Around that time, my half-sister gave me annual membership to the Art Institute of Chicago for a couple years. This is an incredible gift to anyone, particularly a child. In addition to free visits to the Art Institute, a monthly magazine was mailed out - I held onto these for many years, my only access to color photos of artwork at home. However, my mother never took me there as it was "too far," "too expensive" and "dangerous." I really wish now that I had snuck out and gone myself, as the subway route from her house to the Art Institute is so direct and safe. But as an adult, I made use of my membership by visiting about 15 times a year!
In that summer school class, each student had a sketchbook and we were all assigned to draw certain things each week to demonstrate what we had learned - facial features, expressions, different ways of shading, etc. I still have it, filled with both assignments and my own creations. And ever since then, I've always had a sketchbook - probably the artist's greatest tool.