Dear Mrs. Browning

Written by Buddy Odom

buddyodomDear Mrs. Browning,

It has been some forty-plus years since high school graduation, and I think of you. What a love you had for Latin! Your petite and brittle frame would slowly shuffle past our desks as we recited our conjugations… bo, bis bit, bimus, bitis, bunt. I wonder how many biologists and doctors cut their teeth under your guidance!

But, sorry, I am not one of them. I didn’t make it to med school. Nor did I complete Botany 101, a field that fascinates me to this day. But one claim I can make – I married a woman who daily practices Tabula Rasa. As an artist, an oil painter in particular, Kathie begins with a blank canvas. A clean slate. A Tabula Rasa. No boundaries. No rules. Just a fresh start.

"To Bee at Home" Oil on Linen16x20

“To Bee at Home”
Oil on Linen

And why, Mrs. Browning, is a fresh start so frightening? How is it that a new beginning can seem so daunting? Not long ago, inspired by Kathie’s creative courage, I walked into the local art store to purchase a pencil and sketchbook of my own. I knew what a pencil was, but had to ask both where to find them and how to use them. I left with four. Four… like one was different than the other! Come to find out, they are. There are pencils for fine lines, smooth textures, shading, cross- hatching, sharp detailing, smudging and so on. (As if I was not frightened enough).

I still hold my breath when I watch my wife load a brush and lay a paint stroke with seemingly calculated ease. She explains that some of her art is painstaking and laborious while others seem to paint themselves. So, starting with a clean slate
and a truck full of courage Kathie jumps in.

Kathie and Buddy Odom at The Olmsted Plein Air Invitational, April, 2016

Kathie and Buddy Odom at The Olmsted Plein Air Invitational, April, 2016

It has taken several up-close and personal years with Kathie for me to discover that I want that. No, not to be an oil painter, but to be me… that way. Brave, risky and free! And so my Tabula Rasa begins. For two months now I have been practicing the discipline called sketching. It is absolutely terrifying, yet simultaneously, there is a strange exhilaration of possibilities. While my instincts are resistant to the idea of drawing a tree, something much deeper in my soul is awakened.

Sometimes fear and freedom seem like cousins. Thanks for the B minus.

Buddy Odom, Class of 1975

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