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Art School #4: No Making Ashtrays in Ceramics Class

  Seventh grade art class was a mandatory class. Everyone had to take this class. I was in heaven -  an entire hour dedicated to nothing but art every single day! 

  Mrs. Byberg was good at teaching this class. She wasn't the kind of art teacher to reach for your paint brush and show you 'how it's done'. She never stood behind you and peered over your shoulder and made weird noises. 

  This was art, not crafts. We heard lectures on the masters and saw photographs of famous works of art. Then we learned the fundamentals of drawing and painting. 'Learn by doing' was Mrs. Byberg's motto.  

  The only rule I remember hearing was, "no making ashtrays in ceramics class." She gave very pointed instructions which everyone followed. It was dangerous not to because there were chemicals and other questionable substances around. But creativity was never discouraged.

  After seventh grade there was no more art class until Junior year when it was offered as an elective.  I would miss the art room with its random collection of supplies and its fresh paint smells. For the next three years I daydreamed during school as usual but I wasn't challenged to put those dreams on paper until my brother and I had private lessons.

  Our mother saw this gift, this talent that we possessed. My brother John was especially gifted and everyone knew it. He was known as a natural born artist from an early age and not just because he could draw like crazy. Many people thought he was crazy. One of his elementary teachers for example thought he was retarded and wanted to flunk him. My mother marched into the principles office and insisted on having him tested. This was quite an unusual circumstance because in the 60's no one ever heard of A.D.D. or dislexia or any other learning disorder. If there were problems in school you were either stupid or lazy. 

  John wasn't stupid because he scored in the genious percentile on that test. He wasn't lazy because he was very active as a school yard athlete. And he could draw like crazy. So it wasn't long before mom introduced us to 'private art lessons'.

The lessons were at the teachers home. Kitchen table art was what it was. There was a single rose in a vase in the middle of the table. She presented us with water color paper that was stiff and thick and we began to draw with special drawing pencils. Then the india ink came out with old fashioned quills. This was different and fun. We drew over the pencil with the ink and then rubbed out the graphite with gum erasers.

Another step added color to our drawings which now became paintings. Water color filled in between the lines and shaded the petals of the flower.

I loved the process and wanted to continue with these classes forever. John impressed the teacher who proclaimed him a gifted protege. We came back for more and more until the teacher moved away.

1 comment:

  1. What a gift! A mother who sees possibilities instead of walls!