There’s an oft-quoted saying that says “Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” But what happens if you paint a man a fish?

My daughters attend a classical school where we talk a lot about Truth, Goodness and Beauty. So when Christmas rolls around and I’m thinking about teacher gifts, I try to think along those lines. Food, candles, and lotion seem to be hot teacher gifts every year, and this year I wanted to think “outside the box” and look for gifts that were true, good and beautiful.

My oldest daughter is in fourth grade and this year in science, they are studying sea creatures. Laura’s first acrylic painting was a jellyfish.

© Laura Gabel, “Jellyfish Dance”. Acrylic on canvas, 13.5 x 16.5. Private collection.

© Laura Gabel, “Jellyfish Dance”. Acrylic on canvas, 13.5 x 16.5. Private collection.

I thought it would be fantastic if we were able to purchase that painting for her teacher. I first spoke with my daughter to see if she liked the idea. She was exuberant in her approval. So we contacted the other parents, who were also enthusiastic and quickly donated towards the purchase.

We were all amazed when Laura surprised us by painting a companion painting to our jellyfish. This incredible Austin Blue Crab:

© Laura Gabel, “Austin Blue Crab”. Acrylic on canvas, 13.5 x 16.5. Private collection.

© Laura Gabel, “Austin Blue Crab”. Acrylic on canvas, 13.5 x 16.5. Private collection.

When the paintings arrived, I contacted the parents and we arranged a private art viewing from the back of my car after school one afternoon. It was difficult to tell who was more excited – the parents or the students. I spoke with our art teacher, who has guest blogged for us previously, and she agreed to take some time during the students’s art class to allow the students to sign the backs of the paintings for their teacher. They were thrilled!

give a fish

Finally, the last day of school before Christmas arrived. When I walked in the classroom during the party with a large wrapped present, the students all started jumping up and down in excitement and grabbed their teacher to open the present. They crowded around her so much that it was difficult to get a picture. She was astounded at the gift.

give a fish

The students are so proud our “their” paintings and take great pride in having real art, real personal art in their classroom. Not only do they have something beautiful adorning their classroom, they have a visual representation of the truth of what they are studying in science, and they experience the joy of giving a good gift to their teacher.

paint a fish

What will you give?

I know we are past the gift giving season of the year. How many of us received gifts that were true, good and beautiful? How many of us gave such gifts? Or did we, on occasion, buy a gift because we felt “obligated” or we rushed and grabbed something that was just available in our budget? Did you receive gifts that felt a bit like the giver didn’t really put much effort into the gift?

Let me encourage you to think about truth, goodness and beauty when you give a gift. Give some art! Yes, it can be expensive; can you perhaps give a group gift? What about you and your siblings getting a portrait of the grandchildren painted for your parents?

Let’s give gifts that nourish both the giver and the receiver. Painting a fish may not feed the stomach of my daughter’s teacher, but it is feeding her mind and soul for a lifetime. And her students will be fed as well.


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