I have been working with my students on the study of great Masterpieces.  Recently, we looked at Picasso’s, The Dream, a seminal work from his sensual “curvist” period, that shows his young muse, Marie Terese Walter, asleep in an armchair.

It’s not until you break down a great painting and try to recreate it that you realize how profound and mysterious it is, especially a work like The Dream, seemingly so simple on first viewing, but revealing itself, as you penetrate deeper, to be highly complex and maddeningly ingenious.

I gave my young student, Bryan Lai, the task of copying The Dream, which he’d chosen after a review of many of Picasso’s works. I realized as he began sketching and blocking in the colors that this would be more of an interpretation than a strict copy.  Happily, Picasso’s work actively supports and encourages this sort of freedom and exploration.

Even as Bryan began to reconstruct the great painting through his own means, attempting to approximate the original forms and colors, but inevitably discovering through happy accident and personal taste that he was making his own painting—even then the power of the original work came through: its enchantment was born anew under the hand of this eight year old boy.

As he worked, I talked to him about Picasso, about the great man’s habit of working late into the night, about his passionate affairs and powerful personality; about the astronomical prices paid for his work. I could see Bryan’s interest deepening as he worked, proving Picasso’s great adage: “It’s not what you do, it’s who you are that counts.”

Byan has now made his profound contact with Picasso and wants to do more.

It’s incredibly rewarding for me to see children discover an affinity with a great artist. It means that, no matter what profession they pursue in later life–whether it be science, art or business based–they will never forget this first connection with an exciting creator. It could give them the confidence to choose a life path they actively want over one they feel obliged to take. Who knows, tracing those inspired forms, mixing those rapturous colors might enact a sort of inner alchemy of authenticity in them that will guide them throughout their lives… At least I would like to think, pledging myself to teach, not so much Art, as the very spirit of creativity.

I firmly believe that every child, every person, has his or her own “Art Spirit”: a fiery angel or guide that is their true voice, that aids them through the medium of their intuition, that speaks to them in their dreams, that helps them, if they are willing, to make the right choices in life. Waking this Art Spirit, fixing it in the child’s consciousness so that they can visualize it and identify with its needs and desires is the first goal of my teaching.

My work as a teacher energizes me and helps me find my own way as an artist. Proving another adage I’m fond of: “To give is to receive.”