Art Lessons by
(80 Stories)

Prompted By Lessons

Loading Share Buttons...

/ Stories

One day in fourth grade, our art teacher passed out crayons and asked us to draw a picture of the most beautiful thing we could imagine.

Only now does the sheer phallic audacity of that picture make me chuckle.

I started with a verdant forest beside a lush green meadow. Above it I added a blue sky, wispy white clouds, and a yellow sun. And in the middle of the meadow, I placed a sleek, gleaming, silver rocket ship, pointed skyward and bearing an American flag.

It was 1960. The space race was in high gear. The Russians had launched two Sputnik satellites in 1957 and the U.S. was trying desperately to catch up. Both countries were rushing to put astronauts in orbit. The excitement captured my nine-year-old imagination. I had even abandoned my beloved Hardy Boys books to pursue Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.

Only now does the sheer phallic audacity of that picture make me chuckle.

The art teacher, roaming the classroom, finally stopped behind my desk. “Is that really the most beautiful thing you can think of?” she sniffed.

I got the message. Since that day my artistic endeavors have been limited to doodles and scribbles. And my brilliant career as a rocket artist was snuffed out before it began.

An edited version of this story was published in The Sun magazine, June 2004.

Profile photo of John Zussman John Zussman
John Unger Zussman is a creative and corporate storyteller and a co-founder of Retrospect.

Characterizations: been there, funny, well written


  1. Oh, the crushing effect of one snide, offhand remark from one authority figure! I can feel the young John’s embarrassment. Darn that teacher.

    Find that drawing and post it for us to see. Nothing wrong with a little innocent phallic representation of beauty for us Baby Boomers!

  2. John Zussman says:

    Unfortunately I fear the drawing is lost, as I didn’t realize its significance until many years later. If someone finds it when cleaning out my mom’s basement, I’ll let you know.

  3. Betsy Pfau says:

    I had a writing teacher who talks about the effects of “losing one’s voice” due to harsh words from a critical remark. You lost your artist inspiration due to your art teacher’s remarks. But perhaps not your enthusiasm for the space race, which caught up our generation. I love the way you describe changing your reading habits due to your enthusiasm for the subject matter!

  4. Live Aloha says:

    Nice to hear that more than one elementary school teacher snubbed student work. I had a very similar experience, although it didn’t involve a rocket. We turned out ok though – right??

  5. rosie says:

    Each story that I read here brings on related memories of successes and failures which seem to be universal. I enjoyed the story.

  6. Ha! Enjoyed your short but sweet ‘confession,’ JZ, especially the teacher’s ‘sniff.’ The equivalent of one musician telling another, ‘Don’t give up your day job.’ Only you were a kid!

Leave a Reply