As a kid, Rembrandt was probably not only the first artist’s name I ever heard, but also the nicest nick-name I was ever called. Then, as an art student Grif’s age, it was names like his which intimidated me so much, I didn’t even try to paint. If only someone had been there to rescue me out from under the shadows of great art. Where was my shy spirit’s mentor reassuring me that if I wanted to paint, I just had to do it as honestly as I could and that the big guys like Rembrandt would be there to consult, not criticize? Art’s not a competition. It’s a passion.
Today was our Cleveland day. After Grif and I hit the Utrecht Art Supply, we wound down Mayfield Road through Little Italy to the Cleveland Museum of Art. I’d planned on taking him through many of the galleries and end up having him sketch Greek and Roman sculptures. Well, we hardly made it beyond the current Rembrandt in America exhibit. With the aforementioned baggage about the guy, I can honestly tell you that I made peace with that dutchman some years ago when I learned more about him and what a real man he was. His humanity has become a source of strength to me as much as the mythic power of his canvases years before prevented me from trying to pick up a brush. Comparisons, to quote Marlowe, really are odious.
Besides, I’m liking where I am in life. Thinking I’d burned up all my nurturing instincts years ago, I’ve discovered new energy to pass the torch of knowledge, whatever is there. Teaching has become a way I not only share what I know, but even more, a way I become conscious of what I think. Articulating thoughts is powerful. And as I suggested yesterday, sharing bits of my world with a young hungry spirit is exhilarating in a very quiet, calm sort of way. After feasting on the master’s chiaroscuro at the art museum, it was great fun to cross town to meet Jim at our little French fix, Le Petit Triangle in Ohio City, and introduce Grif to the Croque Madame before leading him through the labyrinth of food stalls at the West Side Market.
This week of intense teaching during an unseasonably balmy spring in Ohio has been a turn in the road for me. I’ve come to realize in a new way how revitalizing it is to share things like Utrecht Art Supply, Rembrandt, the Cleveland Museum of Art and French food with a hungry young mind for the first time. It gives me hope that I may be unleashing creative shackles to empower a young artist to create bravely in this new world. And in some way, I get to rewrite the springtime of my own life.