Artistic Necessity

By Dave Macpherson


Every Sunday, we children of Stiennerplatz would run out of church as soon as the final note of the last hymn was sounded, so we could hurry to the shore of the lake to draw.

It was Johanne, the go-getter, who discovered the sand outcropping by Beaver Boulder, where our model would make his appearance. We would be sitting with our sketch pads on our laps when the water before us would eddy and bubble. The lake was a cold swirling cauldron when at last our model would pop his green scaly head out of the water.  He would tower over us, five meters, with his saucer eyes, trout mouth, yellow antenna: our model.

He was the most interesting sea serpent one was ever allowed to draw and draw we would. Our model only could stay above the water for a half hour, so we would draw with furious strokes. Near the end of the allotted time, we showed him our pictures. He leaned over and nudged the sides of those whose drawings he liked. The pleased nudge of a sea serpent was better than any accolade or grade ever could be.

Every week we would draw the serpent and we all grew as artists. But little Piotr grew too much. He began to experiment with flattening perspective, making the serpent almost a cubist creation. Piotr showed the serpent his most abstract portrait at the end of one drawing session.

Piotr beamed with pride. The sea serpent stared at the sketch pad for some time, and then bent over and swallowed Piotr in one gulp. Those of us who remained learned a valuable lesson. Cubism and abstraction is not good art.

We learned other lessons over the weeks.

After Henrietta was consumed, we learned to avoid allegorical drawings. Bruno’s demise taught us to eschew hyper-realism. Pop commercialism became verboten with the loss of Hannah Bea.

Our dwindling band learned simple realism was the best and the safest of art, but our professor was not done teaching us his gentle lessons.  When foreshortening was poorly done, or if the shading was clumsy we would lose a finger, for bad technique should never be ignored, but nipped in the bud.

We also learned not to criticize the sea serpent’s teaching style when Johanne, the go-getter of the group, threw down his pad one day.

“Dull! Dull! Dull!” Johanne shouted.  “You are turning us into plain bland artists. We are not inventive. We are safe. There is no spark in any thing we do. You are making us nothing but rudimentary craftsmen who’s work can only be hung in dark smoky taverns.” I thought the sea serpent looked mournful as he bit into Johanne.

And so I stand before you as the first and only graduate of this peculiar art academy. I am quite successful, having work in galleries in Bonn, Munich and Lisbon. My art adorns many a den and dining room. I have few sales to museums, but what do they know of art?

And I have critics; they call me pedestrian and unoriginal. The most vocal of critics, I invite to travel with me to Stiennerplatz, where they can meet my staunch supporter, my first and best instructor.

Let them explain their complaints to him.



Dave Macpherson is a writer and storyteller who lives in Worcester, MA, with his wife Heather and son George. He is a co-editor of Ballard Street Poetry Journal. He is a columnist for His work has appeared in Everyday Fiction, Why Vandalism?, Haggard and Halloo, MudLuscious, The Binnacle, The November 3rd Club, Tiny Lights, among others.


Published on September 29, 2008 at 10:14 am  Leave a Comment  

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