Makes Us Writers

Once a week, on Thursday morning. Between pledge and prayer, that morning tongue twister, and Bible, we have art. They canceled Art this week though. It’s because, we know, we have Spiritual Emphasis Week. Because schedules have been rearranged and teachers have their own kids in their own classes, and this week, we have no art.

I decide, on Tuesday night, that maybe we just might. Maybe we will have art. It’s only minutes after I’ve begun to wonder that I’ve become convinced: we are going to have art. And I will teach it.

Of course, I’ve wandered the hallowed halls of tens of art galleries in my life. From the Art Institute of Chicago to Paris’ Musee L’Orangerie; I’ve seen art. But my eye for excellence in brushstrokes and in hue is untrained, and I’ve no formal instruction in art. My drawings are rough, my characters are stick figures, my paintings- well, it’s been awhile since I painted anything, really.

But I can see beauty. In words and in phrases, in the little souls that fill the classroom, and in the One who made us all. I can see that, and these words here, these pages of things I’ve seen, things I remember, are a museum; not of what I’ve done, what I’ve said, but of wonder I’ve seen, and gifts He’s given. I don’t know art, per se, but I know beauty, and I’ve sunk deep into wonder, and those can be taught just as well as brush strokes, color choice.

So we set aside that Thursday morning hour, and when chapel ends, the calendar says ART and they are curious, intrigued. We look at the Little Dancer, talk about Degas and what he saw, what he captured, what might have moved him most. We look at paintings and real life models, and talk about the artist’s eye, the way it is him- or her- only who decides what to capture, what to communicate, what to emphasize. The artist sees with an eye, with a view, that none other share, and what comes from her-or his- brush, pen, hand, is as unique as the one they portray.

Then, an image on the screen before them, I give each student a paper, 8.5×11 inches of inviting white spread. They’re not going to copy, not going to follow the lines on the screen, communicating the exact details, exact image, exact feelings of the original artist- if even that were possible. Rather, they will show me. Show with your words, show with your pictures. Use your pen, your eyes, your unique gift to capture a detail- any detail- of this image.

They work, then. Heads bent over papers, some. Others leaning back in their seats, eyes roving over the screen, catching details like falling stars, hoarding them, treasuring them, savoring them. In the dim light, I wander amongst their desks, the white glow of the screen against my back. One or two, maybe more, shrug as I approach, their eyes wide with confusion, dulled with preemptive defeat.

I can’t draw, they tell me, looking up from blank pages, their pens clutched loosely in hands limp with uncertainty. Ah, I shrug definitively when they say this, neither can I. But I can use words- you can use words- anyone can use words. To tell me about what you see, what you want me to see.

Don’t draw, I tell those who shake their heads, shoulders slumped. Write. Write what you see. Write how you feel. Write what caught your heart, what broke your heart. Write the beauty that stopped your breath, and the mundane that kept you breathing. Use your words, child, and write it all.

And they do, a little. They’re learning. We’re all learning. But they are all- we are all- individuals who create, who see, who notice, who remember. And that makes us artists.

Makes us writers.

Makes us creations made in the image of God.

And that is our greatest trait.



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