An Artful Heart
Ever since Kasey Kacheek was a baby, he had always loved the arts. He first visited the art centre at the age of five.
Fascinated by the glow of the campfire dancing across the Aishas' faces, he'd listen shyly as they wove fantastic tales of mountains, beasts, and the brave Neopets who conquered them. He'd listen as the Chia paperboy hollered headlines and handed out copies of The Neopian Times. Kasey loved the smell of fresh ink and the fancy typeface, and though he couldn't read very well yet, he traced his paw across the blocks of text and invented his own stories to fill in the gaps.
But his favorite attraction was the art gallery. He walked around for what seemed like hours, dragging his mother along by the hand when he spotted something special. Abstract Nimmos, pointillistic landscapes, captivating faerie portraits; it was more than Kasey could ever dream of. It came as no surprise to Mrs. Kacheek when her son begged her to sign him up for art class.
On his first day, Kasey put on his favorite green cap, grabbed his red JubJub lunchbox, and swung a pack full of art supplies over his shoulder. His mother walked him to the art centre, where he passed the storytelling circle, the paperboy, and the art gallery before arriving at a room deep in the catacombs. Mr. Blumaroo had a lively spirit, and he had no trouble engaging his class of a dozen children. Everyone was provided an easel and a blank, pristine pad to paint on.
"Come to the front of the room for your paints," Mr. Blumaroo instructed. "Today you'll just be painting whatever you want, and then you'll share it with the class."
On his way to the table littered with various brushes and bottles of bright paint, Kasey bumped into one of his classmates. This Cybunny looked very different from any he'd even seen. She sported beautiful rainbow stripes , and her furry neck was splotched with random colors, like a fluffy paint palette.
"Oh, I'm sorry!" said Kasey the Kacheek. "I didn't mean to bump into you!"
"That's alright." The Cybunny flashed an endearing smile. "I'm Jenny. What's your name?"
"Nice to meet you. I'm Kasey." He tipped the brim of his cap upward, letting the overhead lights illuminate his friendly expression.
"What are you gonna paint?" Jenny asked as she selected yellow, orange, and black paints.
Kasey thought for a moment. "I don't know...Maybe Ill draw a faerie."
"That's what I'm doing!" Jenny cheered. "I'd better get started."
Kasey grabbed his paints and worked diligently within the allotted hour. When Mr. Blumaroo called 'time', Kasey proudly set down his brush, satisfied with his work. When the teacher asked for volunteers, Kasey's hand shot up with the others.
"Yes, you." Mr. Blumaroo pointed to him. "With the nice green cap. Let's see what you've painted today."
Heaving the painting off the easel, Kasey plodded to the front of the room and stood his work in front of him.
"I decided to paint Illusen, the earth faerie."
Encouraged by his classmates' approving smiles, he added, "the faerie paintings in the gallery are my favorite, and I wanted to paint something just like that!"
The class applauded his efforts and Kasey returned to his easel, where he set the painting back up and smiled. Illusen smiled back, her beautiful face and leaf-like wings so nicely drawn.
Jenny was the next to present her painting, which she clutched against her chest before making a dramatic reveal. The class gasped.
Her art was stunning; her depiction of the famous light faerie was precisely detailed, and the vibrant yellow paint shone like the sun.
"This is Siyana," said Jenny proudly. "She's my favorite faerie. I think she's really cool."
"Very nice," said Mr. Blumaroo. He set a hand on her head, between her ears. "This is a very good portrait of Siyana."
And it was. Kasey looked back at his own work. Illusen didn't seem to be smiling as beautifully now. What he thought were perfect shapes now looked sloppy and lopsided. Dejected, he sank into his seat, only half paying attention to the other presentations. Suddenly, art class was a lot less fun.
When class was over, Kasey practiced dragged his painting behind him.
"Don't do that!" shrilled Mrs. Kacheek, who had been waiting outside the door. "These stone floors will ruin it!"
"It's already ruined," Kasey mumbled moodily, reluctantly holding the painting up so she could see it.
Mrs. Kacheek smiled. "It's beautiful, Kasey. Why do you say it's ruined?"
"Just look at it," he said. "It's not as good as everyone elses. It's...it's not as good as hers."
He gestured to Jenny, who stood with her proud-looking parents.
"Oh, sweetie." Kasey's mother took him by hand. "I love your painting. Don't worry about how you measure up to others."
When they returned home, Mrs. Kacheek displayed her son's art in the living room, where his father would see it when he came home from work. Mr. Kacheek loved it too, but Kasey shrugged off his appraisal, still thinking of the rainbow Cybunny and her glorious Siyana. He trudged to his room and shut the door, coming out only for dinner.
The next morning, Kasey didn't want to get up. Sunlight streamed through his blinds and splashed across his face, but he scrunched his eyes closed and rolled over.
"Kasey, time to get up!" His mother sang.
When he didn't stir, she shook his shoulder. He groaned but refused to move. Mrs. Kacheek crossed her arms.
"Honey, did you forget? You have art class today."
"I don't wanna go," he muttered into his pillow. "I'm not any good."
"Yes you are!" His mother sat on the bed and laid a hand on his head, smoothing out his mussed fur. "And that was only your first day. If you don't like your work now, you should go to class so you could improve on it. That's how you become a better artist."
She had a point. Kasey lifted his head and turned to look at her. "I guess so."
"Come on." Mrs. Kacheek took his hand. "I made pancakes for breakfast."
When Kasey entered the art room, he adjusted his cap nervously and looked for Jenny. She wasn't difficult to spot. Mr. Blumaroo was talking animatedly with her, and she nodded along, a glowing smile fixed on her face. She was obviously the teacher's neopet, Kasey thought. Everyone took their seats and Mr. Blumaroo started the lesson.
"Yesterday I let you paint whatever you want. Today is the same—but this time, I want you to think outside the box."
He waited for the collective murmuring to settle before explaining. "Experiment with colors and shapes. Try out a style you're not used to. If you need ideas, I have some examples over here." He indicated a series of painting propped up on the ledge of the blackboard.
He patted a stack of easels pads on the table behind him. "If you mess up and want to start over, I have extra paper up here."
Everyone hurried to the table to grab paints. Being smaller than his peers, Kasey struggled to push through the crowd, and when he got to the table, all the best paints were gone. With a sigh, he chose brown and a dull green color and returned to his easel. In his mind, he mapped out a sketch of a single tree with a wide trunk and leafy branches stretching out to form a cloud of green. He picked up a small paintbrush, squeezed some brown paint on it, and began to make dots on the paper.
Pointillism was hard; he was used to making quick, fluid strokes. As Kasey's patience thinned, the dots became splotchier and splotchier until they were hardly dots at all. He glared at his work ans sighed, then went to retrieve another paper, which he laid on the floor while he tore his first attempt of the easel. In his haste, Kasey knocked the bottle of green paint off his easel spilling it onto his new paper.
Kasey nearly cried out in frustration, but he didn't want any negative attention. He carefully picked up the bottle, closed it, and tried to figure out the best way to lift the soiled paper off the floor.
"That's actually kind of cool," he thought as he surveyed the green splatter. He liked the random splotches and the thin, dripping streams of paint.
He found some paper towels by the sink across the room, wet them, and cleaned up. When he was finished, he gathered several more bottles and kneeled on the floor.
"Here goes," he said as he opened the orange paint.
With a flick of his wrist, Kasey plattered the art onto the canvas, creating another satisfying blob with thin lines branching out. He did the same with a pale yellow, and pinkish red, and blue, and the brown, and the green again. He filled his canvas with splashes of color, and the other students began to gather around him to watch his handiwork. When the hour was up, Kasey was among the eager students who volunteered to present first. This time Mr. Blumaroo called on Jenny first, and she hopped to the front of the room to display her work.
Her art featured a series of yellow squares that, together, formed the vague shape that slightly resembled a Cyberbunny. A self portrait.
"It's not great," she said meekly. "But I wanted to try something new."
Everyone, including Kasey, clapped anyway. When it was his turn to show off his work, he did so proudly. His peers gasped as they took in the colors. Mr. Blumaroo was impressed.
"Abstract! I love it! This is very well done."
Kasey blushed under his green cap as the class applauded. When class was over, he started to leave with a renewed spirit.
"Wait!" Jenny cried, her painting in tow. "I just wanted to say that your painting is really pretty."
"Thanks." Kasey smiled. "I like yours, too."
"Oh, this?" She held it up and grimaced. "It didn't turn out like I wanted it to. It's not very good."
"That's not true."
She looked at him questioningly.
"I think it's great."
Jenny's glowing smile returned. "Thanks...do you think you could teach me how to paint like that?" She pointed at the splatters.
Kasey nodded. "Sure. I'd be happy to!"