i studied writing, illustration, and general fine art at the maryland institute, college of art. one of my drawing teachers was micheal economos. he was an exceptional draftsman. while his students worked, he would render michealangeloesque figures on the chalkboard. he found a way to relate the drawings to our classwork but, really, i think he drew them for his own amusement and/or because he had a reputation for drawing them. he also had a reputation as a notoriously harsh critic. he could rant for minutes about the failings of any piece. as long as he wasn't talking about you, the critiques were as funny as standup comedy. students cried in his classroom though. when he was dissatisfied with one of my paintings -which was assigned to be done in black and white by the way- mister economos picked up my tube of cadmium red and squirted maybe four dollars worth onto the center of my composition. as the threads and globs of paint tumbled down the canvas, he said "see what you can do with that." and walked away. he never hurt my feelings but i never took a class with him after that. i thrive on honest criticism but events like that seemed more malicious than educational.

i was always a little bit surprised when my classmates would list economos -that's what everyone called him- as a favorite teacher but i did learn a lot from him. "don't paint things as they look," he once told me, "paint things as they feel." this might sounds like the sort of esoteric mumbo jumbo that everyone expects to hear in art school but i recognized it as a life lesson. facts are less important than feelings.

have you ever heard an old couple quibble over how they met? the shared facts are debatable, mercurial. the shared feelings are bedrock.

© 2003 rama hughes