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Vignettes Regarding the Artwork of Brendon Kotes
With Aunt Laurel’s voice always a mainstay in Brendon’s mind, he drew in an obsession. Found light and shadow. Discovered distance. Foreground. Curvature and stark angles. Perspective. Always perspective.
Cartoon characters found their way into teacher hands. Anime figures into book bags. Superheroes on chalkboards and whiteboards and in the margins of his tests. Car engines on the backs of his homework.
He sold doodles for a quarter, enough of them to buy a soda most days during lunch. Boys from different grades found him at his locker to ask for their favorite actress or anime girl drawn nude. He was called to a meeting with his guidance counselor once when one of the boys accidently lost theirs in the hallway. Brendon was careful to keep at least a bikini on the figures after that.
The art teacher in middle school—a man named Mr. Wexlar—latched onto Brendon like a barnacle on a piling. Demanding, critical, stern. His face had a paunchy look, round, ruddy cheeks controlling a deep baritone, dangerous voice. His eyebrows were speckled with white, his shoulders slightly stooped from bending over children’s projects for the last four decades instead of his own.
Where Aunt Laurel gave praise and kindness (and sometimes cookies) with each new lesson, Mr. Wexlar gave a B plus for trying and reams of red ink on projects Brendon completed that took home ribbons in the county fair or won in local kid’s contests.
Brendon hated the man. Drew derogatory pictures in outrageous positions, elongated or fattened features like a playhouse mirror. During seventh grade he left a particularly unflattering mockery propped next to the eraser on the chalkboard in a place Mr. Wexlar would be sure to see, thinking that style of art couldn’t be tied back to him.
He came to school the next day with the drawing at his place at the art table, with a sheaf of notes attached. Notes that depicted the history behind the particular style, its use in today’s society, examples of political cartoons for Brendon to look up and study, and even a small addendum at the bottom stating:
“Many artists think talent is enough. Many more think hard work and practice elevates them. They’re all wrong. You want to be successful? People have to like you, not just your work. Ask yourself, why do all the boys ask for pictures, but the girls do not?”