Chapter 4 of ? (the art lesson)


We now have a new art teacher! He’s young, good looking, and not married, according to Patty. Guess I’ll see for myself. Outside the classroom door, Patty said, “Well, I wonder who he’s dating, I wish I was older – like maybe eighteen!”

“Hush Patty, somebody’s gonna hear you gushing over him.” Looking up, I took one look – wow, he is cute, but I’ll never admit it to Patty!

The assignment today is to sketch the face of someone in the room, do not name the model and don’t sign your drawing. I decided to sit near the windows with a good angle to discretely use Melanie as a reference. When I finished, I really thought my sketch was definitely Melanie, so I dropped it in the designated box when class was dismissed.

The next day when Patty and I got to class, we immediately knew things were not right. All the drawings were taped across the display boards. Mr. B was standing in front of the room with his arms folded waiting for the bell to ring. It was eerily quiet, except for Melanie sitting at a desk crying. We sat down without a word.

When the bell rang, Mr. B slowly unfolded his arms and paced slowly across the room. “How do you feel right now, Melanie?” he asked softly.

Between bouts of crying, “I am insulted … that drawing is not me … the nose is too short … the mouth is too small and the hair’s a mess. How could anybody think that’s what I look like?”

We were all nervous not knowing how to respond to her surprise reaction. Least of all, me! A little voice inside me kept repeating – but, Melanie, it looks exactly like you! How could I be so wrong?

“How do you know that drawing is of you, Melanie, there’s no name on it?” Mr. B continued to slowly pace and with deliberate calmness as though to give Melanie time to calm down. Everyone was still quiet, just waiting. Melanie stopped crying, but did not respond.

“Jim, would you please go to the display and write your name at the top of the image you think is you.”

“Oh, that’s easy – it’s the most handsome guy up there!” as he jumped up to comply. Mr. B called each student by name to do the same. I was thinking he just wanted to take roll and learn names at the same time – whatever!

“Okay, now. Everyone should come up and sign their work at the bottom. If your reference was not the person that claimed it, line through it and add the correct reference name.” While the class was signing their work, Mr. B took out a drawing pad and a black ink pen. After sketching a couple of minutes, he closed the pad and placed it back on his desk.

The results were surprising. The error rate by those that believed an image was theirs was sixty percent. Five students had chosen to draw Melanie, but I drew the image she thought was hers. The whole class laughed! “Wow, do we transfer out now!”

“Not yet!” said Mr. B. “What we have here is an art class of students – creative people who enjoy expressing their art, and want to learn more. You have seen an important lesson today. Art that portrays humanity is emotional – it matters to somebody – it can communicate with power, for good or bad.”

He picked up his drawing pad and walked to Melanie’s desk, opened it to hand her his sketch as she stood up, “I think this is the image you expected.”  She took one look at it, and fell into his arms with a hug of thankfulness and appreciation. “I love you, Mr. B!” The bell rang – the lesson was over.

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2 comments on “Chapter 4 of ? (the art lesson)

  1. Texasjune says:

    Thank you, Ron! I imagine him to be an incredible teacher that teaches the whole child, not just the subject matter! I had a few of those in school, know a few today – and will be forever grateful!

    I would appreciate correction with technical errors anytime. Hint, hint – I ain’t too proud to learn!

  2. RonWalt says:

    Excellent piece, June! Wish I had had an art teacher like that! I would have made progress a lot faster, I think!!
    But I would rather he were not particularly good-looking; me being a guy, I would only have suspected him of being a self-satisfied egotist…

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