Jack's Art Class
Louie a Generation Later

Each of us grow up with mentors. These mentors often will change our lives in profoundly positive ways. I have listed ten mentors in my life who came into my life and often saw positive things in me to which I often was oblivious. I owe these mentors much for helping me to become who I am today.

Louie Palmer taught at Muskingum College when I was there in the early 60s. Louie hired me to teach several subsections each week for a required 10-hour course that was taken in either ones junior or senior year. It was called The Arts. There were 3-hourly lectures and a 2-hour subsection each week for both semesters. Therefore, a student at Muskingum would find themselves taking a third of their total hours both semesters in The Arts.

I took The Arts in my junior year and got a B. I did not ace the class. Nonetheless, Louie saw something in me and asked whether I would help teach the subsections. It was one of the greatest opportunities ever given to me in my entire life. What that opportunity provided me cannot be given a momentary price. It changed the way I felt about myself and had a profound and emotional affect upon me. I would not like to imagine what my life would have been like had it not been for Louie giving me that opportunity.

Louie Palmer Louie Palmer teaching

During my junior and senior years, Louie taught me many things but especially two critical lessons. One was the value of learning about the various forms of art since the caves of Lascaux to the Modernists. What I learned during the first year and taught the following year is a part of my everyday life.

The second thing that I learned from Louie was that I was capable of teaching. How he made that judgment without seeing me teach is beyond me. However, Louie gave me several subsections to teach every week for my entire senior year in college. I taught my peers. If fact, I wrote and graded the midterms and finals for both semesters. If I were a college student today, there would be no way that any college would even consider allowing me to teach. But Louie and Muskingum allowed it, and I benefitted immensely.

I have taught art history classes for much of the past two decades at three different universities. Therefore, at the beginning of my adult life, I taught art history and at the end of it I have taught it. It has been a wondrous and rewarding adventure.

And then came Jack into my life. I go to Indy every week for going on 4-years to babysit for Jack and now his younger brother, Owen. During that time while babysitting, I do some online teaching when I have a chance. I do not recall the day or what website I was on. However, Jack had finished lunch or had gotten up from a nap and came over and sat on my lap.

Jack looked at my laptop and wanted to know what I was looking at. It was some painting by some artist. However, it caught his attention. Inquisitive Jack wanted everything about that painting. His curiosity is a hoot. I will explain something about some painting, and if Jack is not satisfied with my explanation, he will ask, "Why?" Jack's "Why" will be repeated until he is satisfied with my explanation.

Thus began Jack's art history class when he turned three years old. I started with two paintings: Marc Chagall's I and the Village and William Turner's The Fighting Téméraire.

Chagall's I and The Village

Chagall's I and The Village

Turner's The Fighting Temeraire

Turner's The Fighting Téméraire

I and the Village mesmerized Jack. I told him the story about Chagall and that painting. Interestingly, I loved that painting while in college. It was in my dorm room while in college 50-years ago. I have always liked it.

Al looking at art with Jack

This picture was taken this month. Jack still goes to that painting all the time. Each time we talk about famous paintings, he is still infatuated by I and the Village. I compiled a notebook for him of several dozen famous paintings. His notebook contains paintings from Chagall, Turner, Monet, and van Gogh. Each week, I will add either another painter or another painting. Nonetheless, Chagall's painting still fascinates him.

Al and Jack studying art

Jack wanted me to notice a part of the painting of which I have never really noticed. He is pointing it out to me...in earnest. I had mentioned to him the houses at the top of the painting...some were upside down. He understand that, but saw a little white house left of the church. He said that it looked like his home.

Chagall's I and The Village

Chagall's I and The Village

Then I said that someday we would go to the Art Institute in Chicago and see Chagall's stain class windows. Jack will spend the afternoon looking closely at all the details of that famous strain glass. That window is 8-foot by 32-foot. I can hear it now, "Why did he do...?

Chagall's windows at The Art Institute of Chicago

Chagall's windows at The Art Institute of Chicago

While Jack was interested in my story about Turner wanting to immortalize the HMS Fighting Téméraire and why, Chagall's I and the Village still intrigues him after our first class. How many three year old toddlers can identify and name either I and the Village or The Fighting Téméraire?

It was not long, given Jack's interest in art, before we got to Vincent van Gogh. This picture was when I merely provided copies of the pictures. After a couple of weeks, the notebook entered our educational dance.

Al and Jack looking at prints

Jack can name over a dozen of paintings by van Gogh; he loves the Starry Night ones.

Al, Jack, and Owen looking at art

This was the most recent class for Jack. However, Owen joined the class to add his comment. I kid you not. He is beginning where Jack began a year ago.

I also use Don McLean's song, Vincent, which Jack and I watch at least every other week.

He loves to rattle off the names of the many of these paintings as they appear on the video. When he sees a new painting, I will pause the video and explain the painting. After Jack finishes his "Whys", we will go back to listening and looking at the paintings of van Gogh.

After Jack and Owen's recent class, I suggested that they could both do some painting themselves. Talk about being driven! Jack got enthused by his Picasso-esque Blue Period while Owen probed Picasso's Rose Period. There was a euphoric serge of emotional creativity.

Jack and Owen making art

Jack and Owen proud of their art

Finally, when Jack finished his part of the painting, he was excited. Owen disses his brother's creativity and enthusiasm.

However, Owen soon discovered things that artists can do with their art supplies.

Owen playing with a marker

Owen thinking about art

All of this experience and excitement with Jack and Owen was because Louie trusted me to teach while I was still in college. I owe Louie more than anyone can imagine...even a half century after letting me teach The Arts.