Monday, November 22, 2010

Emily Carr. "More often then not worthwhile things hurt. Art's Worthwhile."

I had advanced from the drawing of casts and was now painting "still life" under the ogling eye of the French Professor. I was afraid of him, not of his harsh criticisms but his ogle-eyes; jet black pupils rolling around in huge whites, like shoe buttons touring around soup plates.

He said to me, "You have good colour sense. Let me see your eyes, their colour."

The way he ogled down into my eyes made me squirm; nor did it seem to me necessary that he should require to look so often into my 'colour sense'.

He was powerful and enormous. One dare not refuse. His criticism most often was "Scrape, repaint."

Three times that morning he had stood behind my easel and roared."Scrape!" When he said it the fourth time my face went red.

"I have and I have and I have," I shouted.

"Then screpe again!"

I dashed my palette knife down the canvas and wiped the grey ooze on my paint rag.

In great gobbing paint splashes, I hurled the study of tawny chrysanthemums onto the canvas again. Why must he stand at my canvas - grinning?

The minute he was gone, I slammed shut my paint box and gathered up my dirty brushes and ran from the room.

"Finished?", asked my neighbour.

"Finished scraping for that old beast." She saw my angry tears.

The professor came back and found my place empty.

"Where is the little Canadian?"

"Gone home mad!"

"Poor youngster, too bad. Too bad. But, look there!" He pointed to my study. Capital Spirit! Colour! It has to be tormented out of the girl, though. Make her mad and she can paint!

The hard faced woman student, the one who ordered birds for her still life studies to be smothered so that blood should not soil their plumage; the student we called "Wooden heart," spoke from her easel in the corner.

"Professor, you are very hard on that young Canadian girl!"

"Hard?" The professor shrugged, spread his palms. "Art, the girl has makings."
It takes red-hot fury to dig 'em up. "If, I'm harsh, its for her own good." More often then not worthwhile things hurt. Art's worthwhile."

Again, he shrugged.

The Complete Writings of Emily Carr. Douglas and McIntyre, Vancouver, Toronto. 1997.
ISBN 1-55054-578-7 pg. pg.326.

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