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Ghosts in a Fishherman’s Shack

Heard the phrase “blot your copybook”?    Well,we had copybooks at Primary school, and in them we wrote perfect copperplate handwriting (with a steel nib pen) .A blot in your copybook was disaster.  Mindnumbing. But the HEADING, oh,that was something wonderous! There were Lettering styles we could explore-Old English,German, Rustic and Roman.  And the themes for our indian ink and coloured pencil, pirates and jungles,flowers and animals,planets and gladiators were an encouragement to express ourselves.The heading alone made it all worthwhile.

So successful was I at this,that enrolment at High School saw my mother enrol me in an academic stream that included Art ,ignoring my fated future as a famous scientist.  And that was the end of me! Four years later I was studying to become an art teacher.Another forty years and I am a retired art teacher.    There is a world of difference between art teacher and artist,but the paths have crossed often.

AT thirteen, me  mate David and I used to paint watercolours and go fishing,when we were on holidays from secondary school.  We went fishing to Stradbroke Island . We caught fish. We found an old fishermans shack.  There, in an old box in a corner was my ruination. Books of photogravure (sort of black and white) prints by Lord Leighton, William Bouguereau,Alma Tadema, the Pre Raphaelites.

At school,we were being told these monsters had corrupted the muse called Art,and from their evil clutches Modern Artists had valiantly rescued the same fair maiden.  But ,bugger me, these guys could PAINT! And paint fair maidens !  And here we were, dabbling in Cubism and Fauvism and Surrealism. Being naive and idealistic, we too wanted to give ART a helping hand. I even became an Art teacher.

Deep within me something kept nagging. After a Jackson Pollock flowering, I basically stopped painting. Then, twenty years later, the penny dropped.  I wanted Rubens. They didn’t teach Rubens at the Collage of Art,only Warhol: but I was haunted by the ghosts of the artists from the fisherman’s shack.

Was there anyone who could teach me how to paint or at least draw like a heretic?

There was, and I’m still learning.