The beauty of art and an inspirational teacher.

One of the surprising things about living in Beijing is how it can go from winter season to summer season… it is a matter of weeks. If you blink, you can miss the spring season.

When I walk around the city during the short springtime, I see many people taking pictures of the flowering blossoms. People stop and whip out their phones and snap away, taking selfies with the bloom, close-ups or squatting down to take a varied angle shot.

Beijing, China

I find it very beautiful that people take the time to stop and appreciate the flowers even if I think they are missing the point by immediately taking the picture without fully appreciating the flower’s beauty. 

This takes me back to my early days when I spent time learning to draw. The art teacher would insist on us carefully looking at the subject matter and seeking to really understand it before we even picked up a pencil. In fact, there would be no opening of the pencil boxes or distribution of the equipment until we had taken the appropriate time. He would also encourage us to talk about what we could see. 

What shapes and angles are visible? 

What does this tell us about the underlying structure that must be in place for the beauty of the object to exist in the way that it does?

This was at a school in a rugged housing scheme in Glasgow, an area not exactly known for its love of beauty. But I can tell you for sure that every one of us in that class appreciated what we were getting taught. It was like a magical fantasy moment that straddled the roughness of the other classes. We had to get from class to class without fighting, getting picked on or beat up, and that was just by the teachers. 

The pupils were worse. 

I see people on my Facebook romanticise about the school days back then. 

They reminisce about the good old days. 

I don’t see it that way. 

I think school was sh*t and that school, in particular, did more harm to the children during that period in time than good. There were lots to blame, and the many who romanticise were the same people who bullied the other kids. They probably realised that life is more significant and more complex than their violent approach when they got older. Maybe they got the same treatment when they got out into the real world. Perhaps that’s the treatment they got at home, and it was a case of monkey see, monkey do. 

I had little perspective on life back then and no idea how to tolerate the complexities of others. Who knows what was going on in their life? I just hope they are all good now and that they can move on peacefully. 

I was going to finish this post with the following lines… 

“If only they attended the art class, in fact, if only they attended any classes, maybe then it would have been different for them. They could have loved life more and be more respectful of what was around them.”

But I wanted to finish on a higher note. I want to get back to the little oasis of calm of what the art class was for many of us. We laughed, we created, and we became friends. We learned to appreciate things deeper because of the teacher’s passion, and I thank Mr Gray for everything that he talked to us about back then. 

He helped us appreciate whatever it was that we captured on the paper.

And to come full circle, when I ask my partner why she always takes pictures of the blossoms, she replied…

“Because I can appreciate it later when I am in the office, at the canteen, later in the day or when it comes up on my photo timeline later.”

It was then that I appreciated that the casual photograph is as good as art as anything else that is produced.

Because it is appreciated.


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