Link to KIDS' Home Page. Using classical art to build on your own art skills: The Farmer and the Snake

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A Peace Fable

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: July 17, 2000
Latest update: August 2, 2002

La Paix Manquee
or the Missed Chance at Peace

picture from Net Picture colored

"Using classical art to build on your own art skills: The Farmer and the Snake"

Read the fable. Then turn your attention to the drawing that is printed just below it on the Aesop's Fables Site.

This is a great way to spark your imagination. I liked the drawing with The Farmer and the Snake. So I saved it to my site by right clicking on it, and then selecting Save Image As. Remember to be sure that you have written down the name under which you saved the image! Then retrieve it with any paint or photo program you have. Use the brush and fill tools to color it. Don't be afraid to discard your work and try again. You'll get the hang of it soon. Then save the image to your file. OR print it.

Notice that there are no rules. You may color outside the lines. You may color part of a section. You may try many things to create a drawing that reflects your feelings. The snake fascinated me. I tried to echo it in the farmer's moustache. Then later I made it stand out in the impressionist style rendition. This is an example of my trying to gain visual literacy.

OR you could just print the drawing and color it in hardcopy if you like.

OR you could use one of the programs that will change it into an impressionist type painting:

The abstract impressionist image came closer to matching my feelings about the fable. Notice that now the snake leaps out at you. And that brings us to my concerns about the moral of this fable. John Long gives it as: "The greatest kindness will not bind the ungrateful." Is the snake ungrateful? Is it reasonable to cradle a snake, especially one whose venom can kill, in your bosom? Is the farmer here cradling it in his bosom, or holding it out before the fire? The fable doesn't mention the farmer's family. But here he holds his children in his arms. Is he endangering their lives?

The moral seems to suggest that we cannot be loving and caring to other living things without subjecting ourselves to the harm of adversaries? Do you think we could find a moral less extreme than John Long gives? I think we could. Snakes, particularly poisonous ones, are the enemies of farmers. If we're going to treat a previous enemy as a friend, perhaps we need to talk about the truce beforehand.

And here's a version I made of the Farmer and the Snake drawing using Leon Kossoff's style of drawing his own reactions right over copies of famous drawings of paintings.

A LACMA Exhibition Explored Leon Kossoff's Response to the Work of Nicolas Poussin and the Getty Exhibited New Work By Acclaimed British Artist Leon Kossoff: Poussin Landscapes by Leon Kossoff. January 18 through April 16, 2000. Both exhibits have been removed from the museum websites.

It was Kossoff's exhibits at LACMA and the Getty that led me to design this page for us. Here is some of his work available online:

The links above will give you a feel for Kossoff's work. Can you see now what inspired me to make this drawing of the Farmer and the Snake?

Notice that, in this version, not only does the snake stand out, so also do the shapes of the three family members. That certainly does reflect my feelings. So often people say that we must be adversarial, that mutuality is not possible in this violent world. But mutuality requires our listening in good faith to the others in our world. To fail to pay attention to the context in which the snake found himself is to be insensitive by thinking that the snake will be pleased to wake up in the farmer's bosom. How frightening that must have been to the snake! But then to accuse the snake of ingratitude is to privilege our own world view as the only reasonable perspective, to refuse the snake the space and security he (or maybe she) needs to be safe from people, who often kill poisonous snakes. Peace does not depend on everyone trying to dictate that others be like them. The farmer would have been happy to be next to a warm bosom. But the farmer is a human, not a snake. Peace depends on our respecting the unique needs of all the living members of our world. In this painting there were four actors. All were endangered because two of them could not imagine the others' world enough to respect it as different from his own, the farmer and the snake.

Notice that as I continued to fiddle with the drawing, I began to capture more of my feelings about the story. Leon Kossoff is a famous painter. Certainly his drawings from Poussin are works of art. But my drawings are pleasing to me. They are small pieces I could put up on the refrigerator or on the bulletin board and enjoy. They would evoke many thoughts and memories about peace and how difficult it is to live in peace, of how easily we fail to perceive another's social context, and then blame the other for ingratitude.

Here's another Kossoff-like experiment I did with my Corel Photo House program. In following links to mind candy for you, I came across this installation of Franz West in a New York gallery:

Information on Franz West, at the David Zwirner Gallery in Soho: Kasseler Rippchen 1991/1996 Installation. Link to number 5 and then to Detail.

Information on Franz West, from whose 1996 sculpture the original detail is taken.

Look at the detail from the Kasseler Rippchen 1991/1996 Installation. Detail. Reminds me of a face, a smiley face. jeanne

I copied the detail to Corel Photo House, and then drew what I saw. Actually I think it's more of a clown face.

Students , we will discuss this in terms of public art and participation of the public in art in connection with the Leon Kossoff exhibits in May and June at LACMA, at the Getty, and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We will also discuss the extent to which visual literacy is an important part of Twenty-First Century communication.

Find an image on the Web that touches you in some way. Alter that image to reflect your feelings. Practice visual literacy. Interactive Project on Rewriting the Aesop Fable

Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata, June 2000. "Fair Use" encouraged.