Art LO28293

From: Fred Nickols (
Date: 04/23/02

In LO28267, Andrew Campbell writes:

"Do people using various dictionaries in America and/or South Africa
recognise the distinctions between an 'artisan' an 'artiste' and an

I've responded to that posting directly in its original thread but it's
sparked some other thoughts and I thought I'd start a new thread; hence
the change in subject line.

Allow me to tell you a little story about me and Art.

As a young boy I had a knack or talent for freehand drawing. Being
desperately poor (a story in its own right), and not particularly
motivated despite some modest encouragement, I worked mainly in pencil and
occasionally with crayons and colored ink. I was pretty good at
reproducing what was in front of me and even at depicting what I could
imagine or envision or recall from memory. I dearly loved to draw
pictures of what I was hearing on the radio and spent many hours lying on
the floor of my grandmother's flat, sketching what I was hearing.

My talent, such as it was, came to me from my mother, who was quite good
with oils. No one else in her family seemed to have received this gift --
nor did my brother or sister. My son and daughter both received it. My
son is a prize-winning graphics artist (or is that artisan?) and so
someone has finally managed to earn a living or make some money at it.
Genes will win out.

As a freshman in high school in a small midwestern town, I could not major
in art but I could take it for four years and that is what I intended
doing. However, fate had something else in mind.

Shortly after my freshman year began, I was called to a counseling session
with my art teacher. He informed me that I might someday make a competent
illustrator but that I would never be an artist. The reason he gave was
that, although I could faithfully reproduce what was in front of me (real
or imagined), I had nothing to say. There was not in me, according to
him, the makings of an artist.

My "counseling" session with my "teacher" left me stunned, shamed,
saddened, and more than a little angry.

About a month later, an opportunity to get even presented itself. Each
fall, in the small Iowa town where I lived, the windows of shops lining
the main street were festooned with pictures depicting various and sundry
fall scenes, most having to do with the Thanksgiving holiday here in
America. These pictures were painted by youngsters from various age
groups and the process was replete with judges, judging and awards.
Resolved to teach my art teacher a lesson, I applied for and was awarded a

My plan was to simply "reproduce what was in front of me." In this case,
it was an illustration by Norman Rockwell. Done for an insurance company
and prominently displayed in roughly the middle of an issue of the
Saturday Evening Post, the picture in question was of three small boys,
apparently brothers, making their way across the dried-beige,
broken-stalked remnants of a harvested cornfield. The smallest of the
three boys was in the middle, cared for and guided by his older brothers.
This smallest boy was wearing a set of red flannel underwear and the flap
was down, exposing his behind. This was the picture I aimed to reproduce
on the window assigned to me.

Armed with my poster paints and the Norman Rockwell illustration, I set
about my vindictive task. About three-quarters of the way through, I
decided that it wasn't worth the effort and departed the scene, leaving my
window behind as an example of an "unfinished work by an unknown artist."

My high school art teacher was the chief judge of the window displays and
the judging was "blind" (i.e., the youngster who painted a particular
window being judged was not known to the judges).

To my everlasting amazement, my unfinished copy of a widely publicized
Norman Rockwell illustration won second prize in the category of

My "victory," surprising as it was, was not enough. I never took another
art class. But my ability to "make pictures" of what I heard and saw, was
not lost. I've used it ever since to draw pictures of things like the
structure of organizations, and processes, and people, and behavior, and
performance, and circuits, and equipment and all manner of things.

Am I an artist? No. Why? Well, as my art teacher said, I have nothing
to say.

Am I an artiste? No. Why? Well, I hate performing, especially in front
of a live audience (although I did love and, at one time, seemed to have a
knack for being a stand up, classroom instructor).

Am I an artisan? I think so. And that's enough for me.

Now, what has all this to do with a "learning organization"?

Well, you tell me.


Fred Nickols
"Assistance at A Distance"


Fred Nickols <>

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