That time Jonathan Frakes saw me doing really terrible art, but it was okay.

Imagine, if you will, lying by a glorious swimming pool on a warm, sunny afternoon. You’re an artist, which means you carry around pencils and sketchbooks the way other people carry around gum and loose change. Since you’re on vacation, you’re hoping to sketch without the pressure of perfection. The coast of Belize is behind you. The breeze is a welcome relief from the humidity.

Jessica Jewett in Belize.
Jessica Jewett drawing on the Norwegian Jade off the coast of Belize.

Ah, there’s the happy place. You pull out your pencil bag and you begin sketching for no real artistic value – just for your own love of color and light. It’s a terrible sketch that you decide to redo properly once you’re at home with your “real” supplies. This is why you became an artist in the first place. Colors are stimulating and having total control over the story in your sketchbook is the most liberating feeling in a life that often makes you feel trapped in a wheelchair seat belt.

And then, it happens. You feel footsteps close by on the pool deck, so you look up and there he is fussing with his cell phone.

He’s your favorite.

He’s the reason you’re on this ship in the first place.

And he’s coming closer with the warmest grin despite being on the phone, because he remembers you as the lady with the smile and the lovely perfume from the previous night. A toxic sensation of dread and elation washes over you, leaving you rigid and unable to do anything but smile. You don’t want this charming human to see your terrible art lying innocently on the pool chair in front of you because you know you’re capable of so much more. The chance to be impressive is slipping through your fingers.

What’s worse is suddenly realizing your pencil is poking out of your mouth like a blueberry cigarette. You can’t spit it out right there in front of him. That’s so unladylike. Yet you wonder with certain horror if he’s silently trying to piece together why you’re on you’re stomach drawing with your mouth rather than your hands.

I can explain! I’m really a much better artist than this! Let me show you my gallery pieces!

It reverberates in your brain at the same rhythm as his approaching footsteps. Panic begins to bloom in your throat. He’s looking at you in your most vulnerable position, seeing you work with the pencil in your mouth because the universe never gave you the use of your hands. You’ve struggled your whole life to allow people to see you actively being different and he has no idea that it was an internal battle just to come out to the pool deck and draw in front of strangers.

Don’t stop. Please keep walking. But no, wait. You’re my favorite. I want to talk with you and take a photo together. Stay for a minute. Just don’t look at me with pity.

You manage to croak out something resembling, “Hello!” instead.

“Good afternoon,” he says in his cheerful way through his charming smile.

He’s disappearing into the crowds and the moment lets go of your throat. You breathe, torn between thanking the gods and goddesses that he was too busy with a phone call to stop more than a second, and wishing his call had come later so you might have enjoyed a few more seconds of your favorite.

A little while later, you peer down at your horrible sketch and you decide to finish it anyway. Screw it. Jonathan Frakes remembered you from last night. You’re a goddamn queen for a day.

Jessica Jewett, Belize sketch
“The Day Frakes Walked By” by Jessica Jewett. It reads: Upon this day on the ship Jade, whilst sketching the coast of Belize, Jonathan Frakes not only walked by my pool chair twice but remembered me from last night’s meeting. I am the lady with the smile and the good perfume. Always remember Jonathan Frakes likes J’adore by Dior. This sketch is really terrible too but thankfully he didn’t look too close. Oh, and Brent Spiner walked by my pool chair too.

And this, my friends, has been a dramatic retelling of my ten-second encounter with Jonathan Frakes. I wrote it to be tongue-in-cheek but I really did want to tell this story because every type of artist has intense insecurity sometimes, especially faced with another artist that they admire. Intimidation can be very toxic to a person’s creative energy in some ways but it can also push people to do better and challenge themselves more. It just depends on how you channel feelings of intimidation.

The truth is Frakes probably didn’t even notice my odd little setup that afternoon by the pool. If he did, nothing about it struck him as odd. He never stared or flinched or made faces like what the hell is going on here like some other people have done in my past. My tongue-in-cheek story is really a commentary on how we can talk ourselves into believing we’re being judged when that’s the farthest thing from the truth.

So be careful of that toxic thought spiral if you’re an artist. Not everything you do needs to be perfect. Not every artist needs to be perceived as perfect all the time because that’s simply not possible. Doing occasional “bad” art without the pressure to create a masterpiece actually makes you better at your craft.

Here we are in the full shot with my friends Dmitri and Wendy. I love Frakes so much that Wendy gave up her photo op tickets with Gates McFadden so I could meet him. That’s a true friend.

And I’m a true artist even if I was seen doing bad art.

Jessica Jewett, Jonathan Frakes
Jessica Jewett with Jonathan Frakes and friends, Dmitri and Wendy, on the Star Trek cruise in January 2018.

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