With Help from a Friend

With Help from a Friend

From Chicken Soup for the College Soul

With Help from a Friend

Cherish your visions and your dreams, as they are the children of your soul and the blueprints of your ultimate achievements.

Napoleon Hill

I remember the first day of classes at Parsons School of Design. How awkward I felt and how self-conscious! Were my clothes right? My hair? My talent? Was I good enough? Was I gonna cut it?

I walked in and scoped out the room while holding my breath. My vision scanned and then sharply stopped on one person. Wow. She looked cool. I plopped myself down in the empty, waiting chair next to her.

“Hi, I’m Dorri.” I don’t remember what I thought would actually happen, but I do remember being thrilled when she smiled a big white toothy smile and said, “Hi, I’m Kathleen.” That was all it took.

What a difference Kathleen made in my college life! She was confident where I was shaky. Shewas disciplined while I was wild. Shewas responsible; I was lazy. We signed up for all of the same classes. I was so impressed with her. She worked with incredible diligence and with such self-assurance. I started to emulate her. I wanted to impress her.

One day the homework assignment was to create an exciting illustration based on a pair of shoes. I was bursting with ideas and ran home and pulled out my favorite pair of antique thrift shop “old-lady shoes.” I concentrated and worked and sweated and created a self-perceived masterpiece!

I called Kathleen and bragged that I’d finished the assignment. “What?!” she exclaimed. “How could you possibly be finished already?” I was so pleased with myself that I asked her if I could run by her apartment and show her my stunning creation. “Sure,” she said.

I raced down from my fifth-floor apartment, precious drawing in hand, and headed to her place. When I got there, I held up my paper with such glowing confidence, only to have my swelled cockiness crushed by Kathleen’s reaction: “Is that the only drawing you did?”

“Well, yes,” I responded sheepishly. “Why?”

“C’mon,” she said. “It’s still nice out. Let’s go to Washington Square Park and really do some drawings.” I was puzzled, but when she led, I willingly followed.

The whole way to the park, Kathleen animatedly talked about form, content, composition and really studying your subjects. She described the shoes in my drawing as the kind you see on the old women that sit in the park and feed pigeons. Her excitement was contagious.

When we got to the park, she surveyed the scene and chirped, “Over there!” She pointed to a bench that was surrounded by discarded, crumpled paper bags, soda cans and empty cigarette packs. An old woman sitting on the bench had fallen asleep. Kathleen handed me her drawing pad and said, “Here. Now, draw the shoes on that woman! Draw them over and over until you really know what they look like.”

I drew and drew. I filled the sketchbook pages. They were the best I’d ever done thus far. Kathleen watched, and I felt fueled by my captive audience. I was showing off! It was such fun.

The next day was the class critique. I felt so proud hanging my drawing up on the wall for all to see. I knew I had drawn an illustration to be proud of. As the class discussion circled the room to my piece, I heard my fellow students say, “sensitive,” “accurate,” “beautifully stylized.” I looked over at Kathleen, and she gave me that wink and loving smile of hers. College was going to be a lot more fun with her around.

And it was. She continually inspired me, laughed with me, sketched with me and went out dancing with me. Our works of art were chosen for special exhibits, and we both made the dean’s list. We wore our caps and gowns together, and a few years later, I was “best woman” at her wedding.

Whatever fears I had going into college about not being able to make new friends were gently washed away when I found my special, best friend.

After we obtained our B.F.A. degrees, the world opened up for both of us. Now we are both successful self-employed artists. Me, a freelance illustrator and graphic designer. Kathleen, a sculptor and mural painter. I work in my lovely Chelsea cooperative apartment that I bought five years ago. Every morning I wake up grateful for how life has turned out. I make myself a cappuccino and enjoy sipping it as I sit at my computer.

Oops! I gotta run. Kathleen and I are meeting for dinner and a movie.

Dorri Olds

More stories from our partners