Wednesday, November 6, 2013


     I sat in my first high school art class, very scared, very nervous, and eventually very frustrated.  After the first few days I ended up telling my art teacher, Mr. Riner, that I just took his class because I didn't want to take another math class, and that I couldn't even draw a straight line!  He replied, "Who would want to draw a straight line anyway? That's boring!"  After I attempted a few of the assignments I asked him if there was a name for crappy art.  He said, "Actually there is, it's called Dada", and told me to look it up.  Which I did. And ended up seeing his point.  That there's beauty in crappy art.  He did later clarify that in the art world "crappy" was better characterized as "unintentional".  He turned me on to artists like Tzara, Duchamp, and Hoch.  I showed him a painting in a book one day, and told him I liked it, but I didn't know why.  He told me you didn't have to have a "why" when it came to art.  He pointed me in the direction of impressionists, surrealists, abstract artists, modernism, and my now favorite artist Magritte.  And he opened my eyes to a lot more than just art.
     When no one else took us kids seriously, he treated us like actual human beings.  When I was so in love with my high school sweetheart, and everyone else rolled their eyes when we said we'd get married one day, Mr. Riner told me we were lucky to have found each other so early in life.  Twelve years and four kids later I tend to agree with him!  When we asked him a question, he told us the answer.  The actual answer, not the "high school kid" version. I don't remember many people or classes from high school fondly, but Mr. Riner and his class are the exception.
     Jeremy and I saw him over the years at different places around town, and always sought him out when there was a festival or art show in town.  He told Jeremy that he talked about him in every class.  Not about his artistic style, but about how he had a reaction to the plaster we used to make molds of our faces!  I begged him every time I saw him to please, PLEASE, stick around to teach my kids when they got to high school. He would always smile and talk about retirement.  He was seven months away from that retirement when he passed away suddenly on Tuesday.
     I don't often write about things other than what's going on with our family, but I hope one day that I can look back through these blog books and read about the few people outside of family that made me feel like I was doing something good in this life.  And that's what Mr. Riner did for so many people. Teacher and Encourager should go hand-in-hand, but in my experience that is rarely the case.  He was both, plus a friend, confidant, and a follower of Christ.
    Needless to say I don't have any of my masterpieces from those days, but I did dig up some of Jeremy's.  I never did become a good artist.  I'm not even a mediocre artist.  My kids will tell you,  if they need help drawing something (besides stick people) they have to ask their daddy.  Jeremy is a wonderful artist, and our kids are following in his footsteps.  Mia is really interested in it, and is drawing or painting constantly.  She studied O'Keefe last year, and loves shows and exhibits as much as we do.  In our home we hang more of our kids artwork than we do actual photographs of them.  I can only hope my children are as lucky to have a teacher in their lives as we were to have Mr. Riner in ours, at the time in our lives when we needed him most.

Some of Jeremy's art from Mr. Riner's class, circa 1996

A painting I bought a few years ago
(just because I liked it)

Fridge art

Other masterpieces that currently hang in our home

Other faves from the kids portfolios

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