You Are Here
In a time not so long ago and in a place not so far away, there lived a boy named Arthur Lismer. Arthur always had a pencil in his pocket, because Arthur loved to draw. He drew clouds. He drew birds. He drew flowers. He drew many beautiful things. And he drew pictures of stones.
"Why are you drawing a boring old stone?" his friends would ask. "They're just... gray. They're just... rocks."
"Stones are beautiful," Arthur told them. "Just look. Some stones have gold flecks. Some have tiny crystals. In the rain, a stone can change color. In the sunshine, it can sparkle. Every stone is a treasure; every stone is beautiful. Just look!"
Arthur would draw pictures anywhere, anytime. He drew in the morning at the breakfast table. He drew during lunchtime at school. He drew on moonlit nights outside, surrounded by trees. He drew on train rides through the countryside. He even drew on Sundays in church.
"Put that away," his mother would tell him, and so Arthur would close his sketchbook and put his pencil in his pocket, and he would listen to their minister at the Unitarian chapel in Sheffield. But sometimes during the service he would still be thinking about drawing.
When Arthur was thirteen, he went to a special school for artists. After he was graduated, he sold his drawings to people. But he didn't make very much money at it.
So, when he was twenty-six years old, he decided to leave England and sail across the Atlantic Ocean, all the way to Canada. He got an ax and chopped up his desk, and he used its wood to build a trunk. He put some clothes and his drawing paper and his drawing pencils into the trunk, and he moved to Canada.
The trees and the flowers and the animals in Canada were all new to Arthur, and all of them were beautiful. He traveled to many places, going to the mountains and the prairies and the lakes and rivers of that great land, painting pictures of the things he saw.
People liked his pictures. They liked seeing the world through his eyes. Most people hadn't traveled very far, and Canada is a very big country. Arthur's pictures were like windows into a new world.
In his pictures, people could see a river of snow flowing down a mountainside. They saw trees with great gnarly roots all twisted together. They saw a church and houses surrounded by fields of grain. They saw gray rocks colored bright red by the setting sun. They saw a tree bowing in the wind, and above it little white clouds following each other across the sky like little ducklings in a row.
People hadn't seen that before. They hadn't realized just how magnificent Canada was. "Just look," Arthur said. "Look and see."
Many people bought Arthur's pictures to put in their homes. People put his pictures in schools, and in offices, and even on stamps.
Five years after Arthur came to Canada, he became a teacher in an art school, showing people how to create art. Not just with paper and pencil, but with wire and cloth and felt and feather and bits of rock and all kinds of things.
On Saturdays, he taught classes in a museum. People of all ages came, all in the same room. Parents learned right along with their children. Arthur would talk for a while about the paintings, about the artists who created them and about where and when they were made. And then, he would ask everyone: "What do you see in that picture? What do you think it means? What do you like? What kind of beauty is there for you?"
On Sundays, he taught children at his Unitarian church. "Let's go outside!" he would usually say. "Let's see what we can find. Let's see."
"I found a stone," a little girl said one day. "It's just gray."
"Let's see," Arthur said. He licked his finger to get it wet. Then he rubbed his finger on the little stone. The stone turned pink and then purple and then gray again.
"It's like a rainbow!" the little girl said.
Arthur took out his pencil from his pocket (he always carried a pencil) and drew two small dots on one end of the stone, and then a long curving line on the other.
"It's like a mouse!" the little girl said.
He turned the rock over so they could see all the little spidery lines in the cracks.
"It's a like a map!" the little girl said.
Then sunshine came, and the rock began to sparkle.
"Now it's silver and gold!" she said. "It's like treasure."
"It is treasure," Arthur told her.
The little girl nodded. She held the stone that was a rainbow and a mouse and a map and a treasure tightly in her hand. "It's my treasure stone," she said. "I can see that now."
What kind of treasures do you see?