Painting Chinese

Painting Chinese: a lifelong teacher gains the wisdom of youth by Herbert Kohl.  “On reflection, I have come to understand that being among the children and painting with Joseph was a way not merely of learning something new, but of growing up again.  Though unspoken, I was allowing myself to be a child, a student, a learner in ways I had never been while growing up.”  This passage from midway through Kohl’s entertaining tale of self-discovery is the essence of his story. 

Stressed from administering his teaching program at the University of San Francisco, the nearly-seventy-year-old Kohl ventures into an art studio in Chinatown and decides to sign up for a class in traditional Chinese landscape painting.  At his first class, he is surprised to discover that his classmates are all children, no older than seven.  In describing the several semesters of study that follow, Kohl shares his thoughts on learning from the young around us, on the different teaching styles, on embracing aging and death, and on learning about life through art and nature.  Readers will easily see how Kohl’s openness to new ideas and people enabled him to grow as a person during this difficult period and how we could do the same.


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