My First Student

A friend who runs a small art school in Nice called one day to ask if I would give one of his students lessons in landscape painting. « You know I dont teach » I told him. I never taught, never was taught, painting.

He said, I think you really should meet this guy. He is someone important. I didnt really know what he meant by that but I needed money so I said I’d consider it.

My prospective student called. I explained that I was unable to offer him any kind of formal lessons but he could come along and paint with me, watch how I work, and ask questions. We set up an appointment.

He pulled up to my house in a convenable Rolls Royce. A sky blue Corniche.

He looked around critically at my work as it was totally outside his realm of experience and expectations. We talked for a bit. I answered pointed questions about my work and art in general. We decided to give it a try.

Yves had been an apprentice jeweler at the age of fourteen. At thirty five he owned five shops and bought an abandonded chateaux in Medoc. He went to school to study the art of making wine. He renovated the chateaux, planted new vines and created a new wine. He never put it on the market but sold the chateau with several vintages entact in the caves. Then bought a bigger one and did the same.

He was forty seven when we met and the last chateau was on the market. He was about to retire and become a painter. His other passion was food and he would spend much of his time planning exotic meals, seeking out the best ingredients and cooking. He was ambitious, dynamic, inquisitive, critical, adept and used to mastering one thing and then moving on to the next. He thought he could become a successful painter in a year or two. He paid me a fair amount of money to disillusion him. Painting is one of the few things in life that gets harder as you go further along.

I took him out painting in the mountains or in one of the beautiful

Gardens on the Cote D’Azur each day for two weeks. He’d pick me up in the Rolls and carry my paint box. We painted side by side all morning. He asked endless questions

There are many things I do instinctively but never thought about. It was a good exercise for me.

At lunch he would bring a picnic basket out of the trunk of the car with porcelain plates and crystal glasses to serve the meal he had prepared, along with his own wine. It was a far cry from my usual cheese and crackers in a plastic bag. I realized I may have some things to learn from him as well.