Today I bought a picture in town. I hadn’t meant to, it just happened.
I passed a store that the British call Charity Shops. Here people donate unwanted goods, usually clothing, CDs, DVDs, books and other things. These are sold to the general public, the profits go to whatever charity the shop supports; it could be for cancer research, old age welfare, animal welfare or third world charities, or any of a dozen good causes. They are very popular here, not only with students and retired folk but with all social groups. Anyhow, I’m gassing now.
So, I bought a nice picture there. It is not that old, a modern etching in greenish-blue tints. The print is called Overlooking Devenish Island.
Devenish is a religious place in Northern Ireland, some monks live there. The etching shows, in the foreground, a tree on which a ladies bicycle is leaning against. The middle distance shows the lake with a small island, beyond that is the place called Devenish Island. A few trees, some buildings and a tall Irish tower from the Dark Ages. Beyond that is a range of low mountains, clouds and a gibbous moon. A tiny boat glides along on the lake.
You feel like you’re standing on a small hill and looking down and across the scene, towards the mountains and moon, late on a summer evening as the sun is setting behind you.
As I sat at home looking at my latest purchase I was taken back more than thirty years to my Junior High days in West Germany. I remembered a teacher who opened my eyes to the beauty of Art. His name was Robert Bauerle and he taught art to 7th and 8th graders.
Mr. Bauerle was an American civilian teacher teaching American dependent children in a DoDDS in Schweinfurt. He took a real interest in his subject, his passion for Art made you want to learn more. He taught us the fundamentals of art theory, the use of colors, the correct application of perspective and so much more besides. He introduced me to artists I never heard of before.
My favorite, as a 7th grader, was the Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher, he of the surreal and dream like landscapes disengaged from reality. I studied these prints and copied them in my art work. I am not a gifted artist, I have to work darn hard at it. I ,how shall I put it, suffered for my art. But that was OK with me, the great artists all suffered, didn’t they. Look at poor van Goth.
I enjoyed the use of color, pattern, texture. All the time, Mr. Bauerle was there to encourage me. When he spoke I listened. When he drew or painted, I observed. It was one of my favorite school subjects. I got a B grade for my efforts. I was pleased with that.
Later, just before the summer vacation, we were sitting in the school gym watching the A graders getting their merit certificates for English or Maths or whatever. My friends and I weren’t paying that much attention, just goofing around.
All of a sudden I heard my name getting called! What, was that me? Yes, yes my friends replied, and I had to get up and make my way to the front of the gym where the teachers and Principal stood, giving out the Certificates of Award. Here I was handed my Certificate of Award, it had been a total surprise as I hadn’t expected anything (something to do my Cs and Ds on my report card, probably).
But here it was, my own certificate with my own name printed on it. Underneath it stated that I was awarded it for Sustained Quality Art Work. I was so proud, it was the first and only school award I ever received. Mr. Bauerle signed it at the bottom.
I still enjoy Art and studied art history as part of my university course years later. Growing up in Germany made me aware of art, this awareness was further nurtured by Robert Bauerle during his lessons. He shared his love for art with his classes and I would dearly love to meet him again and just say, “Thank You” for being such a great teacher and instructor.
You were one of the people who has made me who I am. For that, I am forever grateful.