A Gift of Art

by Austin Burdick, Flint Hill, First place winner, 2010 KCI Consulting Scholarship

 

Originally published in the May-June 2010 VaHomeschoolers Voice.

In my home school, art and academics have always been inseparable. A pastel pencil could be found in my hand as far back as my right brain can remember. Growing up without television encouraged my brother and me to create our own entertainment, which we did by writing and illustrating primitive graphic novels made out of unevenly stapled sheets of copy paper. Who needed to watch “Scooby Doo and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Smurf Rangers” when we had created enough “books” to fill a whole season of the saga of The Bloody Head? These books were written during my “red period.” It is amazing how many shades of blood you can create when you are five years old.

Since my learning style is so visual, art naturally merged into most of my academic subjects. The mythological conflict between Theseus and the Minotaur sprang to life with the stroke of a paintbrush. My elaborate depiction of The Peloponnesian War alone takes up twenty inches of the homemade history timeline that lines the perimeter of my bedroom. My biology notebook is adorned with sketches of key representatives of Linnaeus’s hierarchical classification system. Some of my most fondly remembered lessons occurred when I was drawing historical figures while my mother read aloud their biographies. I am fortunate to have been schooled this way, and I attribute much of my proficiency in my educational pursuits to the perspective that art imparts.

Quite unpredictably, my art became a vehicle for supporting charitable causes. I keenly remember looking at my first donated oil painting under track lights at the Wakefield Country Day School auction during my twelfth winter. The shock I received when the painting sold was almost as great as realizing that the unusual chocolate I was eating was actually caviar. The proceeds from the auction helped fund the development of a visual arts educational program for the middle school grades and the sale of my painting purchased two wooden easels for the art studio. The gracious handmade thank you card on dark olive pigment paper is still tucked under my calendar desk blotter; signed by nine appreciative budding artists. Perhaps one of them will be famous someday. The Wakefield School art auction experience was the epiphany that my artistic tendency, so second-nature to me, could be used to serve others.

When presented with a cause about which I deeply care, I roll up my sleeves and take to the canvas. As an avid horseman, I have observed the benefits of riding for the mentally or physically challenged. The sale of two pastel polo paintings raised money to help purchase new saddles for the non-profit Golden Dreams Therapeutic Riding Center. Environmental stewardship led me to support the local Great Meadow Foundation for preservation of open space for community use. Concern about the pockets of poverty in our rural Virginia resulted in donations to Habitat for Humanity.

My paintbrush suddenly became a weapon when cancer invaded my dear grandmother’s life. Feeling helpless and in despair, I fought back the only way I knew how. A period of prolific painting produced several pieces that were presented to Hospice, the incredible organization that made life bearable for my grandmother and our family.

Cancer won that battle, but I have faith that we can win the war. My most significant artistic contribution to date has been the creation of an original oil painting that was used as the feature design for all promotional items and posters for the American Cancer Society’s Pink Ribbon Polo Cup. Proceeds benefited the University of Virginia Health System Cancer Center and Martha Jefferson Hospital in the fight against breast cancer. The framed painting was donated for a raffle prize, capturing over $3,000 for this worthy cause.

As I grow, train and mature as an artist, I hope to continue to be able to do good with something that I strive to do well. Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” My proposed solution is not to treat art as a separate entity, but to consciously weave its threads throughout the fabric of one’s life. I realize that art has offered me unique observational insights and a sharper focus in most of my pursuits. It has complimented my conceptual problem-solving skills and enhanced my perspective by its juxtaposition with my other endeavors. Being an artist has greatly impacted my expression as an individual. Art’s greatest gift to me, however, has been its ability to allow me to experience the priceless sensation of giving a gift to others.

About the Author

Austin Burdick of Flint Hill is a high school senior and first place winner of the 2010 KCI Consulting Scholarship.

Originally published in the VaHomeschoolers Voice, a bi-monthly homeschool journal produced by The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers for our members. Not a member? Join now and don’t miss another issue!

VaHomeschoolers Voice Publication Information

VaHomeschoolers Voice is a bi-monthly homeschool journal produced by The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers for our members. Not a member? Join now and don’t miss another issue!

VaHomeschoolers Voice prints selected articles, news, and letters related to home education and Virginia homeschoolers. Opinions expressed by individual writers do not necessarily reflect the views of the Board of Directors of The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers, nor do they represent an official position of VaHomeschoolers. Writers’ views are their own, and readers are encouraged to research and explore homeschooling issues to their own satisfaction.

Permission to reprint content from VaHomeschoolers Voice may be requested by contacting the Voice Editor. Reprinting by-lined articles requires permission of the specific author in addition to permission of the editor.


  • The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers is a non-profit public charity with 501(c)(3) status; your donation is tax-deductible to the extent provided by law. A financial statement is available from the Virginia Division of Consumer Affairs upon request.
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