A Few years ago I entered an art school in Paris as a beginner, with high hopes and an earnest desire to make rapid progress. About thirty students gathered around the model each day, and worked at drawing or painting with varying degrees of earnestness and from many different motives. One wished to gain technique which would be of use in a commercial way; another to please a parent or patron, others because they had nothing else to do and wished to pass away the time. Some had great talent but much timidity, others great conceit and no fear, while a few studied from the pure love of art, from the desire to bring out their sense of perfection, even in a line. To such the joy of true effort was a daily recompense, even if they fell short of their ideal.
Twice a week excitement reigned in the academy, for many had worked expressly to gain the approbation of the professor, who then made his appearance to criticise the drawings of the students. Every heart fluttered and every tongue grew silent as, one by one. he pronounced his verdict upon each production. And how merciless he was! how he slashed and erased, sometimes dashing out with one sweep of the chamois skin the result of hours of patient toil. How careless conceit was ridiculed, disobedience rebuked! Some, weeping, were sent back to the casts for more foundation work. A very few advanced higher. Oh happy moment when one small word of approval for honest effort was vouchsafed. Even "Pas mal" was cherished, for if he could say "Not bad" of a drawing, there must be some merit in it.
After his brisk tread died away what was there left to do? Nothing but to pick up heart and try again, —try to get more of the spirit of art. Cramped, painstaking effort was always rejected, it must be a free stroke, taken with thoughtful precision, and it must have vitality. So, week after week, we practised, trying each day to profit by our past failures. We tried to follow our master's advice, "Look at the model, —do not watch the others, —make the best drawing you can to-day, enjoy your work, practice alone will make perfect. Our progress was measured by months, and even hope sometimes seemed a very distant light.