I have always loved art.  When I was a kid, I had some small talent.  My parents tried to encourage it, but they really didn't know how.  Making a great sacrifice of time and money (that they didn't have) they enrolled me in art classes at the Atlanta High Museum of Art.  I'm truly sorry to relate that it was a total waste of time.  The classes were taught by a ... well, he was exactly how you would imagine the art teacher would look.  Long hair and beard, shabby clothes, smelling of hemp.   Everything was "laid back" and easy-going in class.  It didn't matter what you did, he liked it.  One day, in fact, we spent the entire class posing for his photography efforts.  (Just for the record:  photography is fine, but it isn't art.)  If this teacher had any artistic talent himself, I never saw any evidence of it.  Early in the classes, we spent a lot of time with charcoal and paper, and one day he brought in his brother to pose.  Except for the fact that he was reading a book as we worked, the fellow looked like a homeless person who drifted in off the street.  I was creating a detail of one of his boots, and our teacher would lean over my shoulder.  "Yeah, yeah, man.  I really like the way you've focused in on this one area.  Maybe a little darker here ... " and he would take the charcoal and scratch a little here or there.  Finally, I dropped the class and moved on with life.

Many, many years later, in October of 1999, I was in Raleigh, North Carolina attending the Fall Conference of the EASA Southeastern Chapter.  My wife, Sandra, and I were touring the North Carolina Museum of Art with another couple, good friends Ken and Pam Randall from Monroe in that same state.  There was a lot of interesting and beautiful art on display there, and there was also a lot of what I consider to be trash.  I look at a canvas (or sculpture or other work) and think, if I could have done that in fifteen or twenty minutes it ain't art.  Much of what we saw on display could have been done by third graders in fifteen or twenty minutes.  We were moving through the section for the 19th century when I stopped and stood frozen in YoungGirlDefends.jpg (28579 bytes)amazement before a painting titled "Young Girl Defends Herself Against Love."  I couldn't believe it was possible to create something like this.  Amazingly, this painting was more life-like than any photograph I had ever seen.  Subtle shades of expression on the girl's face seemed to say, "no ... but maybe!" 

I could have stood there for hours, but our friends were ready to move on and my wife was starting to get jealous!  I said goodbye to that masterpiece, but a part of me stayed behind.  Later, back home, I explored the Internet trying to find out more about this painting and the artist who created it.  Unfortunately, I proved to be no better at remembering the name of incredibly talented artists than I am remembering the names of the folks I go to church with every week.  I searched the Museum's website for more information, but without success.  Eventually, I gave up my search, but determined that if I were ever in Raleigh again, I would find my way back to that exhibition and see that painting again.

Five years later, I was poking around on a website called, where some pretty amazing digitally modified images are displayed.  In a collection of images of classical paintings where humans were replaced with animals, I saw one that reminded me somehow of my lost Young Girl.  I followed the link to the original image and found myself on the website of the Art Renewal Center.  In just a few minutes, I had found it.   I learned that the artist was William Bouguereau (and I recently learned how to pronounce his name.  It's "boo-gur-row".)  I saw so many beautiful paintings that my head began to swim.  I wished (briefly) that I could purchase reproductions of these great masterpieces, but then I realized that hanging them in my house would be like adorning a swine's snout with a golden earring.  Some day, though, when I am rich and live in a mansion, my walls will be festooned with hundreds of these works (instead of Home Interiors).  I must confess that a deep melancholy possessed me as I purveyed the pages of this website.   It arose from the sad knowledge that such expressions of beauty would be forever beyond me, that I could never hope to have such an amazing talent as I saw displayed there.

I will have to paint my pictures with words.


Copyright 2004 Raymond K. Paden
Page last modified  05/17/2015