The article below originally appeared in the Half Moon Bay Review and is being reprinted with permission.

Claes Oldenburg’s famous clothespin inspired young art  students this summer during classes at  College of San Mateo.

Claes Oldenburg’s famous clothespin inspired young art students this summer during classes at College of San Mateo.

Fall is the time of year when everyone asks, “How was your summer and what did you do?”

Mine was great. Instead of sitting home wondering what to do, I accepted an offer to teach three summer art classes at College of San Mateo for young students, ages 10 to 15. For three weeks, I taught three one-hour classes in drawing, art exploration and then watercolor, back to back.

I retired six years ago after teaching for 27 years. First I taught elementary and then high school art. I loved teaching, and, to tell the truth, I missed it. I looked forward to inspiring young artists once again. Besides, I had good memories of taking almost every art class that CSM offered. Now I had the opportunity to be an art instructor at the same school.

For the three weeks of teaching, I could only think, plan, and live art projects for the three separate art classes. I discovered I had not lost the passion to teach others how to draw and paint and use their creativity.

The 75 students in the three classes were eager to learn. I wondered how I could have been so fortunate to have such respectful, well-behaved kids. Well, that was the case until the very last day when two boys got stuck in an elevator before their class began. One of them had pushed every button on the panel inside. We were all thankful when a security guard got them out. After the proper correction and apologies were made, class finally started.

Ironically, those two boys had been on my mind the previous night, so I had added something to my lesson that I thought they would enjoy. From the very first week they had a strong interest in one- and two-point perspective. Whenever they finished an assignment, they would ask me if they could go back to drawing things in perspective like buildings, fences, sidewalks, and, yes, even elevators.

For all of the students, and especially for these two budding architect-engineers, I had brought something odd — wooden clothespins — the kind with two wooden sticks held together by a piece of metal. I showed them a drawing of a huge clothespin standing upright that was done in 1967 by Claes Oldenberg. The title was “Late Submission to the Chicago Tribune Architectural Competition of 1922: Clothespin.” The kids caught on quickly.

They began sketching the clothespins with perfect shading and shadows. Next, their clothespins became people, buildings and towers. When turned on their side, the clothespins were transformed into clever-looking cars, planes or animals. The clothespin creations were a success. I was so glad that I had stayed with my idea.

That last day of class had begun with an elevator going up and ended with all of us feeling very “up.”

The kids gave me hugs, thank you notes and drawings. The day that had begun in such an unusual way turned into a good experience for everyone, especially for the two boys and this retired teacher.

Susan Johnson takes part in the Writing Workshop at Senior Coastsiders. She is also on the board of the Coastal Arts League.