Art Schools, Rulers and the Priests of On

In a previous post, I talked about how taking a drawing class revolutionized my drawing ability. That class was both fun and tremendously useful for me. But I also ran into something else.

In ancient Egypt, most people were illiterate, but the priests could read and write. If they had been modern priests, they probably would have talked to the Pharaoh about establishing a system of schools throughout the land to help solve this problem. Maybe the Pharaoh could pay to build the schools and the priests could run them and teach the people to read. 

But that’s not what they did. According to historians Sema'an and Lynda Salem

The ultra-conservative priests, who were the only scribes in ancient Egypt, were determined not to introduce a simple writing system that could be readily apprehended and used by the average citizen. They realized if that ever happened it would mean the end of the privileged priestly class and do away with the presumed sanctity of the complex script. Thus, through their trickery and the complexity of their script, the Egyptian priests were able to maintain, to a certain degree, their monopoly on writing, and to preserve their complex picture word-signs of "heavenly origin" practically unchanged from about 2900 BC to about AD 500.

Instead of admitting the truth that anyone could learn to read, these priests pretended to be special by telling everyone that reading was a magical power which only they possessed. And apparently, that kind of trickery didn't fall into ruins along with the Temple of On, because I found it in my drawing class.

We weren't allowed to use rulers in drawing class. The reason? None of the "good" art schools allow rulers. The reason for that? "We artists have trained ourselves to draw straight lines without rulers." Or straight-ish, to be more exact. Because preserving the illusion of being elite is obviously much more important than, say, making your sunbeams straight.

And the snobbery wasn't restricted to the class. Our professor found a guy on YouTube who even shunned pens and drew with a twig he found in the woods. The twig didn't work very well, of course. It put skips and blobs all over his picture. But even in the face of the twig's obvious failure, he still couldn't own up to the fact that there's a reason we use pens in the modern world. Nope, like the ancient priests, this guy was determined to hold onto his imagined elite artist status. The mess created by the skips and blogs, he explained, "enhances the picture."

I’d like to stay and write more on this, but I have a flight to catch, and the plane is leaving in only 19 hours. Oh, no, please don't call a taxi. Taxis are for amateurs. It's 50 miles, but I'm an experienced traveler. I’ve trained myself to walk.