“Oh God! Why would you ever aspire to be a sketch artist?” Mr. Schikler said with a pouted mouth as he saw Addy putting on random crooked stretches of pencil on the canvas. He knit his brows and slightly tilted his head trying to make sense of his drawing.
“What is this? Focus Addy. Look at her. Observe the silhouette. The wrinkles on her clothes.” Mr. Shikler spoke with a heavy voice through his mustache; pointing at the stage with his brows together.
He turned to his students sitting on high wooden stools facing the canvas board and continued with a raised voice,”I want you all to look carefully at what you see. You have to draw exactly what you see; which makes your job both easy and difficult. This is the greatest exam of your lives. Your lives will permanently change if you pass. And if you fail, you will lose a year.”
On the stage was a heavy Bavarian woman with brown eyes and chubby round cheeks. She was sitting sideways on a chair wearing a clean white blouse and a dark red dirndl apron looking upwards; so as to pose for the aspiring artists that filled the room. Mr. Schikler was considered to be the best teacher and his class was very popular.
Addy tucked his upper lip inside his lower and started drawing his lines glancing frequently at the female on the stage. He could see the dimple on her chin from her half smile. He could see the light falling on her from the left and the shadow that her wavy skirt casted. He identified the different shades of red. Her round eyes had a glint of the open window. But his hands refused to imitate what he was seeing. He did not know where to start.
‘I cannot even draw the edges right, how am I going to draw the creases, the shades, the depth in her eyes.’ Addy thought to himself as he put his hands on ends of the canvas and looked down. He closed his eyes and exhaled; gnashing his teeth in rage. His breathing increased with every second as he shut his eyes tight. With one swift motion of his hand, he tore the paper at the clips. He crumpled the huge canvas sized paper into a ball and threw it on the floor. He blew a gasket with his hands rolled into fists creating a loud grunt.
He had a dream. He wanted to see himself converting an empty canvas into a beautiful masterpiece. He came to this college to make ‘Picasso look mediocre’. He fought with his sister; his family. Against all odds. He remembered the feeling when he used to get an ‘A’ in drawing class at school. His teacher thought he was the best artist in the class. He agreed. He enjoyed drawing buildings. It was a great confluence of science, mathematics and art. He thought it was God’s way of speaking to man. It had a scent of majestic pride. But this college smelled wood and paper. They made him draw humans all the time. Figure drawing was definitely an art but not for Addy. He felt like he was locked up in a cell. His mind wanted to be free.
“Who the hell was that?” Mr. Schikler said raising his head from of one of the fellow student’s canvas. Addy’s thoughts were interrupted by his strong bass. He opened his eyes still looking down. Blood still gushed to his head.
Mr. Schikler walked over to him with bulging eyes and no expression on his face. He stood holding his right wrist with his left hand behind him looking down chin-up at Addy. Addy stood up from the stool still looking down
“If you cannot maintain the self-discipline that my class demands, I demand; you should get out! Show me your art first and then show me these ugly flared nostrils.”
“Show me yours,” Addy said looking up like a serpent ready to attack. The other students in the class were now standing at their respective places looking on with raised eyebrows. The woman on stage stood up not knowing what to do. None of the students in the class were looking at her anymore.
There was a long pause when both men had eyes locked in fury. Mr. Schikler unclasped his right hand and motioned Addy to stand aside. Still looking into his eyes, Addy took a couple of steps back. Mr. Schikler quickly removed his suit and tossed it on a nearby stand. He sat down on the stool facing the canvas and began sharpening a pencil.
“Go ahead Miss Mueller, go back to your position,” he said pointing at the chair. Miss Mueller hastily went back to the chair after momentarily widening her eyes.
“Everyone… get back to your exam. You are in Prof. Schikler’s class. It cannot be interrupted by a crazy hooligan.”
He held the pencil, already sharpened to his satisfaction, and put his hand on the blank paper on the board in front of him. He tilted his head towards the left to get a better view of the stage and his model. With one stroke he had drawn the silhouette and basic skeleton. Within the next minute, the swift and surgical lines on paper differentiated the parts of the body and the clothing. Mr. Schikler drew the eyes with ease; frequently shifting his gaze from the woman to the canvas. He used his fingers to spread the pencil dust so as to give a shadow effect. Soon, the eyes looked like they were alive and staring from the paper.
Addy stood there watching the person he challenged. He was not only accurate he was swift. No mistakes. No mis-strokes. ‘Why did I do this? I was angry. Yes, I was. But on myself. On the fact that I could not draw. I could not start.’ he thought.
He looked up to see Mr. Schikler had completed the face. The beauty in the features was apparent. The pout of her lips, the shadow of the nose falling on the rest of the face, the lines in the ears. The detailing was exquisite.
‘How did it get directed at him? Why did I provoke this monster who is going to now obliterate me through his art. It was a big mistake. But this is how I am. I was angry. That’s what I was. And I don’t care what the world thinks. You ask me to draw people? Really?’
Mr. Schikler was almost finishing the torso and had started drawing the folds in the dirndl. The poise on his face was that of a yogi. He was not seeing or hearing anything else. He gave the right light effect to the wavy flow of the gown by a couple of quick motions of his hand. The side of his hand was completely covered in pencil dust and he was using it to darken the shadows.
‘Sign of a true genius,”Addy thought. ‘Should I apologize? Should I tell him I am interested in a different type of art? Should I tell him what all I faced to come here? O hell no, I won’t. This is not me. I never cry.’
Big sound of stool getting pushed backward brought Addy out of his head. Mr. Schikler had stood up and had clutched his hand behind his back with the other; walking a step towards Addy..
“Here is mine. Now you will see my flared nostrils,” Mr. Schikler said bringing his face right in front of Addy’s; peering into his eyes.
“I can. And you all are here because I can. Never ever think of doing anything like this,” Mr. Schikler said raising the voice so as to address the whole class; still holding his face across Addy’s. Drops of saliva involuntarily escaped Mr. Schikler’s mouth as he shouted out, ” “In my office after lunch time.” His face contorted in an all-consuming anger.
Addy nodded. For the rest of the class, Mr. Schikler made Addy stand and watch the other artists deliver their test; occasionally giving him angry glances.
Addy sat on the corridor holding a piece of bread. The only one he got for lunch. ‘I will have something more than this some day. A full warm meal. Someday I will become a great artist. With or without anyone’s approval. I cannot fit myself in these grooves. They tell me and I do it. That, certainly, is not going to happen. People are uninteresting. They come in weird forms and shapes. I want to draw the elegance of the Buckingham palace, the intricate trusses of the Eiffel tower, the Reich building. So accurate. Beautiful cuts. Nice sharp edges. Putting perspective in the architecture is real art. These structures stand there inviting us to appreciate there beauty. Unlike these sloppy, always unhappy creatures who will make us feel unwelcomed.’
Addy sat there waiting for the lunch hour to get over. People who witnessed the whole episode would occasionally walk past him watching him like some bear in a museum. Addy would look back at them and not say anything.
“What was that in the class?” Mr. Schikler sat on his big chair whose back extended over his head. Addy stood there looking down. Mr Schikler put his hands on the arm rest and leaned forward so as to catch Addy’s eyes from the bottom up. Addy shifted his eyes to his professor’s.
“Who gave you the authority of indiscipline? If you cannot draw you should get out of the college.”
“I won’t draw what you tell me.”
“Is that true?” Mr. Schikler said raising one of his eyebrows. “Show me what you have got then. The once no one told you to draw.”
Addy took a foot-long notebook from his rough fabric bag and handed it over to Mr. Schikler. Mr. Schikler sat back in his chair that gave out a slight creak. He supported the notebook on his forearms and gripped with his fingers from the top. He began to scan Addy’s drawing occasionally raising the notebook to get a better look.
Mr. Schikler gave out intermittent “Hmmm…”s. He would spend more time on some pages and would flip through the others. Addy waited. He did not know what to anticipate. ‘I am, certainly, is not going to get praise. That’s not how Prof. Schikler is. It doesn’t look like he hates them either. My art has cooled him down,’ Addy thought; slight fleeting smile coming up on his face.
“Not bad. Where are all the people?” Mr. Schikler had surely toned down his anger.
Addy walked over to Mr. Schikler’s side of the table and looked over his shoulder. He flipped four-five of pages and pointed out at a drawing of a couple of men.
“Too boxy,” Mr. Schikler declared. ” You don’t have the talent for my class.” Mr. Schikler shook his head fusing his lips tight. Addy bent to have a clear look of what Mr. Schikler meant.
“See this.” Mr. Schikler removed the little finger from his fist and pointed at a human figure in the notebook. “You have drawn them like you draw monuments. People are not made of concrete. They don’t have sharp edges.”
“You, definitely, have talent for drawing structures. You have got the perspective right. The proportions are close to accurate,” Mr. Schikler went on to say; waving his hands to draw the ‘structure’ in air.
“But this notebook does not show me an all-round performance. And then there was the indiscipline back in the class.” Mr. Schikler said; his palms facing up. Addy said nothing and gawked at the table.
Mr. Schikler stood up and handed Addy his notebook. He raised his arm sideways so as to virtually push Addy with him out of his office. Both of them walked out of the door and in the corridor.
“We will have to ask you to discontinue, Mr. Hitler. You may flourish in a career in designing structures. Perhaps you should apply to architectural college. But you are certainly not an artist. Not a complete one. Good luck for your future. And please, check your behavior. You will have to sort out the war going on in your mind. Otherwise, you will drag a lot of people into it.” Addy could make out Mr. Schikler’s smile under his mustache.
Mr. Schikler escorted Addy out of the main door and waved a half-hearted goodbye for the last time. Addy looked back for a moment and then turned his head as he started climbing down the stairs. His emotionless straight face was scary even to him. His dream was crushed. Something that he had chosen to do for the rest of his life. He won’t be able to do it now. Mr. Schikler was right he was good at architecture. But for that, he needed a college degree. He had dropped out of high school. He did not like the system. People treated him like an outcast and he did not like studying.
‘I don’t need anyone’s certificate. I am going to go lone. I am going to look my life in the eye. He is going to regret the loss of a great artist. And the world is going to regret this day.’ With tears running down his red eyes and stress lines clogging his forehead, Addy walked on.