Tuesday Jun 14, 2005

Tale of the Art Teacher

I’m in Starbucks. It’s busy.

I’m getting settled to work on one of my color pencil pieces when a gray-haired lady comes over to my table. Do you mind if I sit down here, she says.

I wave my hand toward an empty chair.

I can look at what you’re working on, she adds. I’m an art teacher. She puts her coffee, cake, and newspaper on the table, but has not yet sat down.

I show her the piece in progress.

Oh, she says, that’s colorful and nice, but I’ve seen that before.

Okay, I say to myself: the die is cast. A pristine opportunity has presented itself.

Where, I ask? Who, I ask? I know she has never seen this art before—no one has. I also realized that the spirit of this piece reminded her of something she had once seen.

I’m 74-years old, she proudly states. I’ve been on a long road teaching art in high school and looking at art. I’ve seen it all.

I pull a dozen 8-1/2 and 11 pieces from my portfolio, and then say, please peruse.

Still standing, she takes the art from me and begins commenting on each piece in teacher mode: this one is okay, but too small … this one is colorful, but you won’t sell it … maybe it’s okay as an illustration … this one is original … this one is not … this one has depth and is complicated … and so on. She went through them all and then picked three as her favorites.

I had listened on in silence, then said: thank you for looking.

I bet others picked these as their favorites, too, she said.

I said, everyone who has seen them has given me their own take, and they are all right.

Yes, said the retired art teacher, but I bet the pieces I chose as the best were also among the best chosen by the others.

I smiled. Then, the art teacher took her coffee, cake, and newspaper to claim a chair as a nearby table freed up across the cafe.

What was the point of this encounter?

I had no doubt that the 74-year-old lady was sincere. Her critique, however, of my work was inept. How many of her unseasoned art students over the years had been damaged by her missing what was what?

As I point out in my upcoming book for artists on how to triumph over rejection: What have I learned over the years? The experts, who might have even been earnest with their doomsday advice, couldn’t grasp the vision I had. Do not be deceived. Sincerity is often totally wrong

The art teacher was right about one thing when she had observed: You love color and are not afraid to use it.

Remember, if you invite comments about your work, you will get them.» 

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