Nathaniel and Zack's Story

From Theory to Practice

Andrew Wyeth in His Studio
"My father believed in sound drawing… he used to say, 'I want you to know the fundamentals.' He was right, of course."
-Andrew Wyeth, 1917-2009
A knight sounds his trumpet
State Fair Blue Ribbon Winner!
Nathaniel Robinson, Age 6½, Oil Painting after Wyeth
NC Wyeth at home
"Andy, free as a bird, has been doing a lot of canvases… He is the ideal student in art, and will go far."
-N. C. Wyeth 1882-1945
What skills are locked within your child? Probably more than anyone imagines. In 1999 my son Nathaniel was six and a half. I decided to try and teach him oil painting privately. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to test out many of the theories I had learned regarding art instruction, as well as spend some quiet time with my son. So we began working together. Once a week, for forty-five minutes, we'd go to The Art Academy and I'd teach Nathaniel the principles of painting in the simplest way possible. When my second son Zack turned five and a half I began training him, too. The artwork on this page shows their accomplishments.

All the pictures that my sons have painted on this page, save one, are copies after the great American illustrator N. C. Wyeth. Of course, they were done under ideal conditions that can only exist between a parent and a child. I am very proud of their efforts.

So many inspiring stories of art education fill the pages of history: Chimabue walks down a country road and stumbles upon a boy drawing in the dirt, decides to train him, and provides Giotto with the skills to revolutionize the whole history of Western Art; Bernini's father begins teaching him the craft of sculpture at age six and Baroque Art is born; Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema's mother wakes him every morning before school so he can spend a few hours painting and he becomes one of the most celebrated painters in Victorian England; N. C. Wyeth takes time away from his hectic illustration schedule to train his son Andrew and we have one of the most notable painters in America. These are just a handful of the countless stories of children and art education that can be found throughout history.

In the last hundred years, however, we have come to dismiss such thorough training that began at a young age as 'talent'. Yet, the artists of the past rarely separated ability from effort. Addressing his colleagues at a gathering of the admission jury of the official French Salon in 1765, painter Jean-Baptiste Simeon Chardin (1699-1779) stated: "Talent does not declare itself in an instant. It is not at the first attempt that one has the honesty to admit one's inabilities….He who has not felt the difficulties of art does nothing that counts." Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) said it more simply: "It is very hard work to turn out anything that looks like a good painting."

I have no idea what professions Nathaniel and Zack will eventually pursue. They could fall very far from the realm of art. I do know that at the very least they will have an appreciation for painting, one of the great achievements of mankind. They will also have the skills to pass that knowledge on to others and continue a grand tradition, as well as do paintings of their own, if they choose.

From working with Nathaniel, Zack and other students I have learned a great deal. I have come to realize the true potential hidden within all our children. It is this belief that keeps all of us teaching at The Art Academy.