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Seeing Red

December 2, 2012

Now that Thanksgiving has come and gone many of my fellow bloggers are posting pictures of the arts and crafts they’re making as holiday gifts for friends and family. I can’t help but reflect on how inventive and imaginative people are out there in the Blogosphere. Such talent and creativity! It makes me think back to the time I decided to become an artist. 


I grew up seeing red.     

When I was a kid my parents bought a painting of a bull fight. During my formative years it hung in our living room. The picture was hardly unique; over the years I’ve seen hundreds of similar pictures, most worse than this one, but I grew up staring at that matador swirling his red cape in front of a charging bull. 

Few homes on our street had original artwork, and this was the first real painting I’d seen. Even as a kid I didn’t think much of it; the matador didn’t look like a living breathing person, and the bull wasn’t quite right. But there was a single stroke of magic in the picture.  

While the artist was painting the red cape, he wiped his loaded brush on the side of the black bull. A simple stroke of paint, but the effect was miraculous. From the far side of our living room that stroke of red paint looked like hot shiny bull sweat picking up the red reflection of the cape. Mesmerized, I would climb up on the couch beneath the painting and press my nose to the picture—and see only red and black paint. 

No magic.

I wanted to pinpoint the moment my eye worked this miracle, the moment that single stroke of red paint transformed into hot, wet bull sweat. I’d jump off the couch and take a step back. No transformation. Another step—nothing. Back a little more and…there it was—the magic. For a while I did this daily until it scared the bejeezus out of my mother.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked one day when I was perched on the back of the couch with my nose pressed to the canvas.

 I didn’t feel capable of explaining that I was trying to pinpoint an optical phenomenon, so I said, “I’ve decided to be a painter when I grow up.”

She looked relieved. “Thank God! You had me worried for a minute.”

 “I did? Why?”

“I was worried you were going to tell me you wanted to be a matador!”


What did you want to be when you grew up? 


Wonderful story telling as usual. You had me laughing out loud at the end! I went through a brief stint of wanting to be an English teacher, and a lawyer. But I've always wanted to be a writer.
By: The Insomniac's Dream on December 2, 2012
You probably could have made more money as a matador.
By: PT Dilloway on December 2, 2012
I watched a matador being thrown into the air last night on TV. So funny you write about this! Especially since I never watch TV...well, I did last night. Anyway, I wanted to be an Astronaut. Obviously, that gig didn't pan out.
By: Crack You Whip on December 2, 2012
I wanted to be old, brilliant, gorgeous & the queen of the universe. I made it with the old part--still got to do some work on the rest!!
By: fishducky on December 2, 2012
What a great story. I love your mother. She really does remind me of my grandmother and that's why I love her so much. Feisty. I didn't want to be the stereotypical things girls were, so I because a cop. It was perfect for me. I chose wisely. Have a terrific day. :)
By: Comedy Plus on December 2, 2012
You are really lucky that you can pinpoint making such a major life decision to one event. For most people something like this happens because of a tangled, unorganized series of happenings that doesn't seem to make any sense and often is just a matter of being in a certain place at a certain time. I've wanted to be a teacher, a doctor, a writer, a flight attendant, a translator, and a travel agent. The only thing I've come close to is translating - as a hobby for a friend who is doing genealogy research.
By: Pixel Peeper on December 2, 2012
I always wanted to grow to be a little kid. I'm pretty sure I have succeeded.
By: Cranky Old Man on December 2, 2012
I always wanted to be a teacher. And I am one. We had a print of Van Gogh's Sunflowers over our couch. I think it was the F.458 version. I know it had a yellow background. I didn't know it was Van Gogh at the time. Something about it caught my eye whenever I passed through the living room. The more I looked at it, the more I was displeased, because the flowers didn't look real. I suppose I was expecting a photographic representation.
By: Val on December 2, 2012
Fine story telling as always. I remember doing something similar with Monet's Rouen Cathedral in Boston's MFA. There was a point where all those fuzzy dots up close became a magically defined piece of architecture from a bit of a distance. I wanted to be a veterinarian .. until I learned the word "euthanasia."
By: Hilary on December 2, 2012
I had no idea. Just away from all the shouting would be nice. Good story.
By: LL COOL JOE on December 2, 2012
I was never quite clear on what I've wanted to be when I was a kid. However, there was one point where I went from Veterinarian to Marine Biologist, despite always having a fascination with television and writing. Fast forward to the present, the media is my bread and butter. Funny how things turn when sometimes they are so obvious from the start.
By: Luis Rodriguez on December 2, 2012
I wanted to be a nurse. My father always wanted one of us (his five daughters) to become an Air Force nurse. I shoulda listened to Daddy, but I guess being a newspaper reporter was pretty interesting; and now I like writing and editing. I also got enough healthcare training to work in a nursing home and an acute care clinic. I'm calm in an emergency. I always carry my CPR kit in my purse, but I hope I never have to use it. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on December 2, 2012
Hey, I wanted to be a farmer. Growing up on an isolated farm we were exposed to little else.
By: Red on December 2, 2012
Cool story Stephen, I can just see the look on your Moms face :) I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.
By: Jimmy on December 2, 2012
Great story- and fascinating, as well. You certainly have the talent to back up your dream. I think, deep down, I always wanted to be a teacher.
By: Shelly on December 2, 2012
I think I remember this story and picture. (?) Both are impressive and worthy of reposting. On a different note, one of your comments made my list of the top 20 comments of 2012. Cheers! xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on December 2, 2012
I guess i never had a very clear vision of what i wanted to be - there are so many things to still try. I guess writer, artist, musician - all of the above Maybe when i grow up i'll let you know
By: Don't Feed The Pixies on December 3, 2012
So you even had an artist's eye as a little boy. I can see why the nose-to-painting might of scared your mother a bit. Funny, about the "relieved" comment. As far as what I wanted to be...changed a thousand times. I always took J-O-B-S that worked into raising my kids and never aspired to a career. I think there were some jobs that suited me better than others.
By: Cheryl P. on December 3, 2012
i actually wanted to be an artist too. my grandfather used to encourage my drawing quite a lot and give me little ideas. he was an artist and musician cleverly disguised as a machinist. he died when i was 12 though and there was not really anyone willing to fan that flame as they deemed it being a "dreamer," which in my family was a pejorative. i'm no artist but through the years i have found ways to keep giving expression to my creative side though. it's part of what keeps me sane.
By: lime on December 3, 2012
I like your Mom! :) Love the post also. I'm sure my childhood self only wanted to be the best at throwing pine cones in the pine cone wars!
By: Hey Monkey Butt on December 3, 2012
It's always fascinating to read stories about peoples dreams of what they hoped for, dreamed of, wondered about. For me at different times I went from wanting to be priest, doctor, architect, operate heavy machinery, cop, super hero, a good parent, a photographer. My life seems to be an ongoing journey of self discovery.
By: Daniel LaFrance on December 3, 2012
In first grade I said I wanted to be the first woman on Mars. Not sure why. I have tried to sign up two ways (Linky and RSS2) but have no idea where in the world to find your posts after I signed up those ways?? To be in the networked blogs you have to be on facebook, which I left a long time ago and don't plan to return. I may just not be computer savvy enough to follow you to your new home. I will miss you. Best of luck!
By: Rita McGregor on December 4, 2012
A professional footballer (soccer player) was my childhood dream. By age 16, I realized I wasn't good enough. Ah well, I now compensate by being an avid watcher,
By: Bryan Jones on December 4, 2012
Damn- was I supposed to grow up?
By: Kathe W. on December 4, 2012
actually I wanted to be an architect....but being good in math was a skill that I lacked...sometimes I think I should have perservered.... but than my life would have been so different...and I wouldn't want to change it.....
By: Kathe W. on December 4, 2012
I wanted to be an artist, but my mother didn't think that was a respectable career. She told me to say i wanted to be an electrical engineer. I could never understand why being an artist wasn't respectable but driving a train was.
By: on December 6, 2012

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