One summer, my cousins and I went to stay with our grandparents in Virginia for a week. My grandmother bought us each a paint-by-numbers kit to keep us occupied, complete with all the little plastic containers of paint colors needed to complete the image. My painting was a profile of a horse, with several shades of brown for the horse’s coat and greens and blues for the background and sky. I can’t remember if my cousins also had horses or if theirs were different, but I do remember that the result of my paint-by-numbers was better than theirs, enough so that we all recognized it.

For years one cousin has retold that story as evidence that she always knew I would be an artist. It has always struck me that we could get the same ...

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