“I Suspect You’ve Used a Ruler”

I feel an unexpected loss. I equated Dimitar Krustev with Ajijic and winter, for when Hubby and I were there, I took art lessons from him. Granted, Hubby and I didn’t come here last winter, nor did I paint the previous winter (although I had stopped in to visit him),  but I still thought of him. And, despite me not continuing with art when I was back home in Nova Scotia, I toyed with the idea of resuming lessons this season.

A week ago, out of the blue, a friend said, “You did know Dimitar died?”

“What?” No, I hadn’t. I was stunned.

I shouldn’t have been totally surprised; he was 93, after all. I had been meaning to ask that particular individual, one of his prior students, if he had run into him, but I kept forgetting. Perhaps I knew, deep inside.

I’m still upset, still shocked. Still feel a loss.

I wish I could have said goodbye. I wish I had taken more lessons from him; I wish I still could. He was an excellent teacher, and I learned a lot from him.

“I suspect you’ve used a ruler.” I’ll never forget those words and how embarrassed I had been. I couldn’t draw, still can’t, but I can paint okay. My rationale, once I realized I couldn’t draw (for doesn’t that take skill one is born with?), was that I was in Dimitar’s studio for painting lessons, not drawing lessons. Rather than waste precious time drawing during classes, I’d do my drawings at home. From a 4×6 photograph, I’d transfer that image to a large sheet of pastel paper with the use of a ruler. One inch on the photo could equal four inches on the paper. No, I didn’t graph it out, that would be cheating. A ruler was simply my crutch to get the outline to paper—to ensure my measurements were accurate—but I couldn’t let on to Dimitar, of course. He had said early on in lessons that no rulers were to be used.

I carried a ruler—or two—in my bag of art supplies when I went to his studio, ‘cause who knew when one might snap or be misplaced. He had seen them on occasion, for one couldn’t sneak anything by him, but never mentioned them. Sometimes I even used one in class, when I needed to, but always when his back was turned.

So, my drawings were always complete when I showed up for class. (You’d think he’d have clued in to that early on!) And, despite “cheating,” they weren’t always to scale, as he’d point out on occasion. One day, after he had chastised me about my drawing being out-of-whack, even though I had thought it to be perfect (I saw the flaws once he pointed them out), he blurted, “I suspect you’ve used a ruler,” and walked away in a huff.

Dimitar was old-school. You didn’t draw or paint with aids, but, despite him profusely praising my “talents,” he didn’t understand I had none. I couldn’t draw, yet I wanted desperately to paint my grandchildren’s portraits, and I could only draw their gorgeous faces by using a ruler. That was in 2008. Today I have several portraits of each of them, not to mention other various images. Thanks to a ruler. And Dimitar.

RIP Dimitar Krusev, 1920-2013



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