Love, Life Stories

My brother and I used to bond over our love of art – until this happened

He was a professional artist, and I was just an amateur. He'd make sure I remember that, all the time.

I discovered my passion for art when I was only four. Usually all I had to work with was a pencil and blank pages from my older sister and cousins’ used exercise books. Sometimes used papers and past year exams papers were useful too, as long as there was enough space for me to doodle any image in my mind. I had no colored pencils, crayons, or watercolors to paint and draw back then, but it didn’t dim my enthusiasm to create something from my imagination. Not even a bit.

From drawing simple objects like house, trees, and animals, I slowly but surely mastered some skills in realistic drawings. I was persistent in polishing my artistry even with limited art supplies. I taught myself everything, from line drawing to lifelike picture without any help from anyone or even taking an art class.

In my family, I wasn’t the only one with interest in the arts.

My brother was passionate about art too, but he only found it out when he was sixteen after he enrolled in a fine art class. His sphere of interest was wider than mine. While I mostly sketch on papers, playing with graphite and charcoals, he sculpts and carves his imagination into figures as well.

Instead of pursuing my dream of being an artist, I went to business school, just to fulfill my parents’ wish. But he somehow managed to slash his way through their orders and expectations and high hopes. He went to college and picked Fine Arts as his major.

There was one thing I admired about him – his courage in following his dream.

At first, I thought we could still bond over our shared passion for art, sharing knowledge and perhaps helping each other out when we ran out of ideas. But it never happens anymore. Not since he went to art school.

Two years ago, I remember showing him a portrait of Luke Evans I’d sketched. It was one of my finest pieces so far and I was really proud. I expected him to be at least a little impressed, even just a tiny bit.

I could see a flash of surprise on his face, but it wasn’t a pleasant one.

He began to point out every mistake I made. The shades and hue weren’t perfect, the pencil’s stroke wasn’t done correctly and my techniques were all wrong.

I was a little bit hurt by his comment but convinced myself to take it as a constructive criticism. But I couldn’t help but wonder: does it matter if everything I create turns out good?

The next day, he made his own sketch, a portrait of a girl. A perfect piece of art, done with all the right techniques.

Whenever my mother and other siblings complimented my art, he didn’t say a thing, unless if they asked for his opinions, and then his answer would be his usual criticism.

I would’ve appreciated his opinion if he at least suggested ways for me to improve, but all he did was point out the flaws and imperfections in my work. There was nothing encouraging, supportive, or positive at all. He felt as if he gained some right to express his judgment even more on my artistic works. He couldn’t help but compare my works with his.

Art has been my hobby, which I hope to make something greater out of one day. I have a personal collection of my work, but I haven’t taken the step to make it in to a professional portfolio or submit it for an exhibition. Meanwhile, my brother has created many pieces for school and exhibitions.

He’s a professional artist, and I’m just an amateur. He makes sure I remember that, all the time.

I, unofficially, became his competition. Sadly, I couldn’t say anything about his skills since I had no basic knowledge of art theory.

I always stayed silent when he spoke about art, his or mine, until one day, when my mother praised my talents in art, and he intervened.

According to him, my talent wasn’t enough without knowledge. Foundation was important to create a perfect masterpiece, and the best pieces of art were the ones made with correct techniques.

After years of silence, I finally spoke up: “I disagree.”

I told him art could be anything and done in any way the artist wanted it. I told him that art is how I bring my imaginative intensity to life, on the papers and canvases. I’ve learned a lot of ways of art making, but I’ve developed my natural techniques and styles, and my art is valuable too.

Art isn’t always about correct techniques of stroking, shading, and crosshatching. It’s more about expressing ideas, thoughts, and emotions. Art is the urge to express in any visual form. There’s no restriction in art. People are free to express it in any way they preferred.

Since then, he’s never said a word to me about my art.

I hope he’s realized that I don’t need those theories to articulate my thoughts and feelings. If I want to express myself, I choose my own techniques for that and I create beautiful art.

Art is more than just a relaxing hobby. It’s escapism, liberation, and empowerment. As soon as I touch my charcoal stick and open a new blank page of my sketchbook, I’m free to do anything I want.

And I certainly don’t need to follow anyone’s rules on how to do it, especially his.

  • Thee Shaheera

    Thee Shaheera is currently a senior in college, majoring in Business Management. Her interests includes arts, fashion design, languages, foods, photography and anything unrelated to business but her greatest passion is writing. She likes to think of herself as a modern-day Renaissance woman, or at least determined to be one in the future.