E. presented as a quiet student, mature for his age. Perhaps his maturity developed from his medical condition, the one that caused the barely noticeable tremor in his hands. The tremor that infused his drawings with an unsettling mystery of movement. His sketchbook pages overflowed with quivering lines and trembling shapes. There was no still life in his otherworldly representation.

What unique voice could this artistic hand create? Always careful to nurture my students’ burgeoning artistic voice as it developed, I observed that E.’s confidence in his art was almost nonexistent. The tremor that made his work so powerful was his ego’s Achilles heel. How many times could I tell him that representation requires the artists hand to become art, otherwise you might as well just use a copier and set up rows and rows of imagery that all looked the same.

After a while his confidence began to grow, and his work, while that of a beginner, was like nothing I had seen before. He showed an interest in taking the next level art class, which required a certain grade and approval of his art teacher. His grade was excellent, so, of course, I approved his choice to advance to the next level.

A short while into the next semester, his advanced level art teacher came to me asking if I had approved him for that course. She was surprised to learn that I had, and said he was unable to draw to a satisfactory level in the advanced course. When I offered that his tremor was part of his artistic being, I only received a blank stare. She noted that she was having him drop the course. Oh, I thought, she wants a room full of copiers.

I can only hope that somewhere he found a way to express his authentic artistic voice, free from the judgment of any rigidly narrow definition of art.

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