John Paulus Semple

I hated school! I never had the slightest idea how to read either a clock or musical notes, two skills all my classmates had mastered. School was a constant fear for me. One day the teacher brought in a pile of paper plates . . . the kind used at picnics. She told us to decorate them with our supply of poster paints. It was the first day I ever enjoyed school. A day or two later, two of the school’s teachers were examining some of the plates and I heard one of them exclaim, “What a beautiful sense of design!” It turned out to be my plate, and I had been selected from the whole school to attend special Saturday art classes at the Boston Museum. Thus began my adventure in art. I must have been ten or eleven, and I went into the city all by myself, taking the train from Wollaston to South Station and then continuing on the subway. I admired my mother for trusting me.

The first day in class (there were only three or four of us) sat the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. She then proceeded to draw exquisite horses and color them in. I was amazed that she had so much talent. I don’t remember the day’s other events very well, except I loved the class and the amazing teacher who drew so wonderfully. Leaving the museum, I saw a small painting that was so good I couldn’t even imagine how a person could do it. Say hello to Mr. Canaletto! I was completely hooked. The trip home was a treat because we rode the old steam engines. Even the noise pleased me. I loved those trains and my trips on them. My love of trains is reflected in my paintings and especially in my etchings, which have often featured train yards. Well. That was my day. I had been selected from all of my fellow students on a scholarship to the magnificent Boston Museum. And for the first time, instead of failing everything, I was a success.


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