Reflections on Art and Life
I didn’t like my arts teacher in elementary school and the sentiment was reciprocated. I did not agonize over the fact as the teacher didn’t like any of her students. It was very obvious to me, a quiet and insightful ten year old, that she did not want to be there with thirty six uncultured unwashed savages.
She didn’t teach us anything about art. No color theory, no great painters, no perspective principles, no paint or paper properties, or how to hold the silly old pencil. The only requirement was that we paint something and be quiet.
She started each lesson with pouring boiling water over freshly ground coffee beans in her artist clay mug. The aroma quickly filled the classroom. We watched enviously, counting minutes to the break, stomachs churning in hunger. And then she would usually begin her rant. She spoke about the unfairness of the oppressive government and how we were ignorant of the true history of our homeland. Even to my young ignorant self her outbursts felt unwise and untimely.
At one time, when she took a break from her discourse in revisionist history, she called me up to the front of the class to show my painting to everyone. It was a picture of the beach. I had divided the page in half (I didn’t know about the principle of the thirds – how could I?). She remarked that my blue waves of the water were quite engaging and that the sand was boring. This is my only memory of interacting with her. All other times felt like swimming in the sea of invisibility.
It is not quite true that she did not like any students. She had a favorite. It was a daughter of the physics teacher, one or two years older than us. Her pencil sketches were plastered on the front wall of the classroom like an altar at which all the other failures were expected to worship. The teacher was preparing her for the entrance exams to the arts school. I marveled at how she was able to draw a back of a person sitting in a chair. I secretly wished I could do the same but had no idea how to begin. I concluded that if I wasn’t born with the innate knowledge of the process, then it was not meant for me. I asked my engineer father about drawing in perspective and he showed me a few simple steps to drawing receding buildings and trees, but that was about all.
Time went on. I didn’t think much about painting or visual arts. I focused on practicing flute and learning music theory. I later found out that the girl became pregnant and saw her in the neighborhood pushing a stroller. I don’t know whether she continued her arts studies or what became of her.
My own trajectory was no less surprising as I became a proficient technical illustrator, having studied 3D computer modeling and all its prerequisites, such as pencil sketching and technical drafting. Principles of perspective delighted me, geometry excited me, and trigonometry produced in me feelings of awe and reverence. The fate, as if to spite my former teacher, brought my way a great number of assignments involving drawing chairs. I drew many different designs from all angles and perspectives, as well as all kinds of machinery, buildings, medical devices, and countless other objects.
So what is the moral of the story? There are at least several, though I don’t feel like moralizing. There have been times when I was overlooked and at other times was favorited, perhaps at another’s expense. There is no fairness, rhyme, or reason to those things. All I want to remind myself of today is that:
– I need no permission from an authority figure to pursue my interests,
– It matters very little who the current celebrities are,
– I will not let others determine who I am or who I am not,
– Learning is the answer to not knowing or feeling intimidated.
Artwork: Deeper Still – acrylics on stretched canvas, 24 x 36 x 0.75 in
(61 x 91 x 2 cm)
©2016 Dosia McKay