Draw Me Airplanes

A kind old man from Guyana once told me this story in 2007. I paraphrased it from our conversation that afternoon.

I was a teacher back home for many years before I came here. I taught ages 8 to 14. One day a week, we would teach our students art. For one hour on Friday afternoon, 2-3 o’clock. You have to understand my conception of art was very different then, if for instance, I had a picture of an airplane I’d have the children draw it. The colors, lines and shapes. That was art.

So one day as I walked around they were working and drawing away. I remember seeing these bright colors and models of what this plane looked like. We were into the lesson by about 5 or 10 minutes when I went to the back row and I had this young man about 10 sitting quietly. His art book was closed, a pad of about 20 pages or so. I asked him, “Are you finished already?” he quietly replied, “Oh, yes Sir.” I asked him if I could see it. He opened his book. I looked at it, it was a blank page. I asked him, “Where is the airplane?” He silently pointed to the center of the page. I crouched down to look at what he was showing me and it was a small little v shaped mark. I asked him, “What is this?” He said, “The airplane took off.”

I stood there in amazement. It surprised me so much, this student was generally below average in our other subjects, but something really happened there that made me think, what a brilliant idea, the way in which he perceived the idea of the airplane. Later I took it to the Headmaster and he and I both agreed it was correct. It was the assignment, draw the airplane. Now, after working here for about 2 years and seeing art so new to me I remember that child’s drawing from time to time and I am reminded that art is not the picture of the airplane on the paper. It is the perception and internalization of the idea of the airplane in the mind of the artist and viewer. That is where the art is, in each of us.