There are many great artists today and some are also great teachers. Whenever I receive a compliment for my manor of teaching, it is because I learned from some of the best. Let me share them with you.
My education started when young and I graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BFA. Robin Arnold influenced me greatly while at college in New Paltz. She nurtured my growing skills and introduced me to paintings and artists whom she thought my style was reflective of. While I was not an abstract painter she was influential in my learning to appreciate and love reducing imagery to its simplest form. Learning to see the abstraction in any scene keeps the painting solid and the message being communicated clearer. She never grew impatient and was always encouraging me to continue to learn, do something different and stretch myself. I can feel so much from her work which helped me to focus on not just what I see in a scene but also a sense of place. There were also many other great teachers there however, she sits on top of my memory.
I will be on the panel for the Women’s Leadership Summit on April 10th at SUNY New Paltz.
My first plein air workshop was with Garin Baker on the Hudson River in NY. At that time I earned my living as a portrait painter and had already earned numerous best of shows for portraits. Garin had even invited me to teach pastel portraiture at his Carriage House studio in Newburgh for a bit. He is best known for huge murals yet he is also an extraordinary teacher. Now he teaches at the Art Student’s League. When he moved to the Hudson Valley I remember thinking how wonderful to have such a fine artist nearby. Taking his plein air class on the Hudson River and in the hills around Sugar Loaf was memorable. He was a great instructor demonstrating on our paintings the proper way to use value to create a sense of depth. It was with him that I really understand how to create separation in form using value. His easy going nature helped the learning process. He was a great mentor and friend as well.
In my first solo exhibit at the Karpeles Museum in Newburgh a few years later, he gave me a wonderful testimonial I much appreciated.
“It has always been my honor
and pleasure to know you and your wonderful work
so full of atmosphere, breath and a completely fresh approach.”
– Warmest wishes from your fellow plein air painter & comrade.
- Garin Baker
Garin Baker is one of the best teaching artists and the Art Student’s League is lucky to have him.
Another great artist lived about a half hour south of me in New Jersey.
Instead of going for my masters in art after graduating SUNY New Paltz,
I decided that I wanted more classical training. I got much value from learning in to see abstractly but
it was suggested by fellow painters that I go to the Ridgewood Art Institute in NJ
to study under another modern master, John Phillip Osborne.
John comes from a lineage of masters.
His teacher was Arthur Maynard who also taught at the Ridgewood Art Institute.
It was in Osborne’s class that I was introduced to a prismatic palette. (Think of the colors of the rainbow).
He taught us how to build a strong foundation which helps to keep the painting solid from start to finish.
Maynard’s teacher was Frank Vincent DuMond who had an even more impressionist color palette.
One day Osborne just talked and talked the entire class. Instead of painting I
wrote down every word and studied it over and over helping me absorb the knowledge that took him years to gain. His paintings are extraordinary and he too was a patient and kind teacher. At our easel’s each week he would demonstrate over and over until we got the concept he was trying to help us see. It is seeing and simplifying what we see that we need to learn. Then we can depict that on canvas.
DuMond’s paintings were also truly remarkable. After seeing DuMond’s colors I had more confidence to trust my own voice.
According to Wikipedia, DuMond… "From 1884 to 1888, he attended the Art Students League of New York, studying underCarroll Beckwith and William Sartain. DuMond financed his art education by taking a job creating illustrations for New York'sDaily Graphic newspaper. As a result of his fine work there, he was offered a job at Harper's Weekly.
He moved to Paris to continue his studies. From 1888 or 1889 to 1891 he attended Académie Julian, where his instructors included Benjamin Constant, Jules Joseph Lefebvre, and Gustav Boulanger. He attained recognition in 1890 when a painting of his, Holy Family, exhibited at the Salon, was awarded a prestigious medal."
Wow- what a line to come from. My weekly trips to study with John Osborne assisted me in learning to not only improve my portraits skills, working exclusively from life, seeing the different light and the entire rainbow fall across the face but also grow my appreciation of the importance of painting outdoors.
My outdoor paintings around 2001 in oil were not that good. When I switched to pastel something clicked, my landscape paintings began selling quickly. I could hardly keep up with demand. The colors in the pastels added energy that I wasn’t able to get yet in oil.
After 9/11 and the loss of my girlfriend, you could say that Psalm 24 led me outdoors… “go out in green pastures”. I fell in love with nature speaking to me, healing me, inspiring me. My great teachers gave me the ability to express myself easily and effortlessly once out there.
I don’t feel like I follow the "rules” totally. I think like a tonalist but work like an impressionist and since I also had training by a shaman, I relate strongly to color and few people use color in a way that appeals to me.
Then Andrew Lattimore moved to the Hudson Valley. I saw in his work an enhanced ability with color yet, in a traditional manner. “It never hurts to get more classical training”, I thought. It was a treat to be able to learn in his studio regularly as an already somewhat successful artist. He welcomed me in and I got to hear and see the secrets from his experience at the Florence Academy of Art.
After taking Andrew’s class I was able to refine my charcoal drawing skills. Also, I could better do with paint what I could do much easier and successfully with pastel. I was already a member of the Pastel Society of America but needed more training with painting. He was also a master painter and teacher. Few can do both.
He created his school also on the Hudson River. I sent one young man that I had done a soul portrait for to study with Andrew and he ended up going on to Florence like Andrew did to study. This young man earned the top award from the Florence Academy when he graduated. His name is Dillon Gillespie. So proud of him and his work at such a young age.
Most of my teachers gave me the freedom and encouragement to be me.
Except one. I learned what NOT to do when a student of his. If the style wasn’t like his, he didn’t feel it was as good.
As a teacher myself, I allow my students to follow their own voice and best help them as much as I can. I am not trying them to make them a clone of me.
A teacher must be careful how they criticize a student. A suggestion sandwiched between two praises helps a student to learn more. We are dealing with souls when teaching art. Souls are too easily crushed so pick your teachers carefully. When I saw one young girl leave the room crying after this one teacher stomped on her work, I was so angry at him. She never came back. I never had a chance to tell her she shouldn’t listen to him. This is what one older woman in this class had said to me after he told me in front of the whole class that one of my paintings (it contained metaphors teaching me about my life) was “garbage”. Today that painting still holds much meaning and inspiration. Now technically he was better than me at the time yet this painting did exceed his imagination by far. Had that woman not pulled me aside, maybe I might have not returned (at least to his class).
Being an artist is challenging. There are many hats to wear. When you add the role of being a teacher on top of the long list of duties it makes for longer hours however, it also has many rewards.
We must pass what we have learned from those before us onto the next generation. We are one family and I feel obligated and honored to pass the baton on to those standing in the line following me.
I hope to meet new students this spring in the Hudson Valley when teaching at the Wallkill River School of Art (click the link to find out more) or in Greece Sept 2019 (click here).