Sunday, March 29, 2009

Guest Artist

Some years ago, I had a student, Chris Fan who would tell me often, "Mr. Wales, my grandpa is an artist and art teacher in China." Sometimes he would add, "Someday he'll come to visit and he can show you how good he paints." One year this family gave me one of Grandpa's beautiful paintings as a gift. It was done in the traditional Chinese style, in which they use calligraphic brushstrokes. The Eastern approach is much different than much of the art from the West. Many times their goal is to depict something beautifully with as few brush strokes as possible. Students must master many techniques before they even think about originality.

Then one summer during an art class, this artist paid a surprise visit. Neither he or his wife spoke English, but he immediately sat down, got out his art supplies and showed us how he made a painting. While working, he spoke in Chinese while his grandchildren translated. He made us all try it, and he was very encouraging about our efforts -- (even mine, which were not that good). He looked at some of the paintings of mine on the board, and remarked enthusiastically about my paintings and some of the children's art, including the work of one boy who was very pleased with his drawing of Superman.

This is one of my favorite memories as a teacher. It's a kind of thing that wasn't even planned -- it just happened spontaneously, and was a once in a lifetime experience for me and the kids.

Victoria Fan-Gorman says,

My grandfather's name is Chu Chun-Fu. He majored in Chinese painting at Beijing Art Institute in China. Once in Taiwan, he taught art in high school his entire career and also gave private lessons. His students hosted an exhibition of his paintings, and my grandfather then published his entire collection. One copy of the book was given to the AAHS library in 2000.


Marek Bennett said...

Great story, Andy. Yeah, it's those unplanned moments that often stay with us years later. That can seem kind of depressing for us teachers, who actually spend so much time planning our lessons and trying to account for every moment of the classroom.... but mostly I think it's inspiring, because it means that any moment could be your next Experience.

I suppose it's a cartooning lesson, as well. Be open to that unplanned experience that springs up unbidden!

Ben Villarreal said...

The unplanned experiences are one of my favorite parts of teaching; they're also why I don't use lesson plans. To put it in the words of one of my colleagues, the classroom is an organic thing. If something unexpectedly works, I ride it out as long as the class allows it :-)