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The Gift of Art

The Gift of Art

Story and drawing by Jack Fischer

Art came alive to a dyslexic, low-self esteem boy that needed direction. At an early age, I had a gift for drawing. My eye and hand worked in tandem tracing objects and images in a very short time. On cold, wintery days I would lose myself copying National Geographic pictures. Living in Chicago, my mother and I would visit the Art Institute and enjoy seeing Van Gogh’s Starry Night and Rembrandt’s portraits.

Upon graduating from high school I went on a European trip to see the Masters paintings of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa and Michelangelo’s Sistene chapel ceiling. I was awestruck at the realism of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa capturing her facial expression, skin tones and her eyes. Why it looked like wherever I stood her eyes followed me. “What was she thinking? Was she in love?” To think this painting was over five hundred years old. When I walked into the Sistine Chapel my senses came alive.

Two years after graduating from Indiana State University as an All American gymnast, I was practicing for the AAU Championships and was paralyzed from the neck down doing a double back flip off the parallel bars. I was suicidal without hope until I saw quadriplegic, Joni Eareckson using her mouth to hold a paintbrush. Her talent was still there despite her disability. I said to myself, “if she can draw, so can I.”

Every Tuesday, I took a one-hour class in drawing. At first I was discouraged because I couldn’t move my arm, much less draw! Before my accident, I was able to draw with ease for hours. Although my fingers weren’t directly grabbing onto the pencil, I made tremendous progress. My arm slowly moved across the paper making large, swiggly lines. Then in a 5″ x 5″ box, I tried to write my initials, J. F. The pencil ran off the table. I felt so depressed about having to start all over again. On so many levels I had to start all over again. I felt like a baby with an adult’s mind.

Fortunately, my strength returned enough learning how to draw with built up pencils. I lost all sense of time copying the masters art works. My gift wasn’t extinguished but heightened as I expressed biblical heroes and the stories overcoming odds such as Moses vs. Pharoah, David vs. Goliath and Jesus at the cross. The pictures I drew comforted others and gave me courage to ‘fight the good fight of faith.’

drawing by Jack Fischer

I married a few years after the accident and had to earn an income. After going back to college to get a teaching credential there were a lot of doubts how a quadriplegic could survive running a elementary class. As a bilingual method, a drawing communicated in a 1,000 words translating concepts in a fraction of the time. My students recognized it and said, “that’s good.” They understood and enjoyed writing lessons in storyboard and copying Starry Night. I taught for twenty years and some of those students are artists today.

After forty years the passion to create scenes of wonder still take me away and into the painting.

Jack Fischer

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