"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Forbidden art from long ago

Death--8" by 10" pencil sketch by Terrence Miller Clark, probably in early high school years at Comanche, Oklahoma
I recently found this collection of my Dad's artwork. But there's more here than a high school student's artist work, probably done in class when he should have been studying. His main topic was WWI., which was fresh in everyone's memory when he was growing up in the 1920s  and early 30s in red dirt Oklahoma.

I learned recently that my dad would not have been able to draw like this in current public schools.   Why?

We were recently having a kitchen sink installed, and I was talking to the 30-something fellow doing the work. I expect that he was conservative, perhaps an evangelical, but we were having a great conversation and he had definite, well-defined opinions on lots of stuff. He told me that he and his wife were home-schooling their children. They live in the Putnam City district. He said they sent their son to first grade, and then pulled him out, for a number of reasons. One reason was that the boy was not allowed to draw pictures, in art class, of any weapons. "Boys draw pictures of swords, knights, fighting," he said. "Nothing wrong with that."

I thought of these pictures of my Dad's. I related this story to a professor colleague of mine who also home-schools her children. She wasn't surprised. She said in Edmond, art classes forced the children to "color inside the lines."

My Dad never colored inside the lines. when I was in first grade, I never did either, and got graded down in later grades for wasting my time drawing pictures of U-boats, and dogfights between Mustangs and Me-109s from WWII. Too often, mine showed the Germans winning, and that didn't sit well in the 1950s.

My Dad and I would never have graduated. All my children got good educations in public schools, in Waurika and Stillwater. But creativity was allowed.
And it still should be. Not politically correct test-oriented rote learning. Oklahoma and America need creativity more than ever, and that means letting students explore, and try, and fail, and if they want to draw pictures of people fighting, let them.We don't need cookie cutter; we need individuals.

So these photos, and the ones following, all 8 x 10 on fragile, yellowing paper and Big-Chief tablet paper, are forbidden today.


  1. Ah, the whole education thing. I couldn't color within the lines if I wanted to and I couldn't tell blue from purple so I grew to hate art.

    At SPB's school the art teacher is a Native American who is a genuine artist. He explains that he just wants the kids to learn how work with the different mediums (oils, watercolors, clay, drawings, etc) and he doesn't care what they come up with as long as they learn how to work with what they are doing. As you can guess the results are chaotic and the parents and kids both love it. He regards coloring within the lines to be a problem.

  2. That's nuts! Don't a lot of little boys draw weapons? Oh, the times they are-a changin'.

  3. I've heard that our Kindergartners lead the world, but by the time American kids graduate, we are last of the industrialized countries. I asked my wife (PreK at Millwood) about it, and she thinks it is due to creativity and hands on learning of the early years. Then, after 1st grade its "sit in your desk and repeat after me." Teaching to the test seems to have failed for everyone involved.
    My $0.02


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