inessential by Brent Simmons

Early art training

I still remember my earliest art training.

In pre-school—though I think we called it nursery school—we had three rooms: a common room, a room for boys, and a room for girls.

(You thought I was going to talk about finger-painting. I’m not.)

The girls room—which I only saw from the doorway—was all dolls and pretend kitchens and small houses. Very representational. Everything looked like a real thing.

The boys room may have had a truck or two, which the bullies kept to themselves, but mostly it was primary-colored blocks. Wooden rectangles. Very abstract, as if they wanted to raise a generation of Piet Mondrians.

(I have no idea if nursery schools are still organized this way, but this was not just pre-school but pre-history. We didn’t play with dinosaur toys—we just looked out the window at the odd stegosaurus snarling up traffic, at the pterosaur carrying off a family Chihuahua. Our family “car” was a paisley dragon, this being the early ’70s, before the first energy crisis, before we cared about miles-per-yap-dog.)

To this day I love Mondrians. And I have an affinity for the Cubists, naturally. (Though I’ve never found the Dada-ists and Surrealists to be my cup of fur, for whatever reason.)