Lois and I started this blog because we both love pencils – she loves to write, and I love to draw – drawing being a metaphor for creating a visual image, be it with a pencil, oil paint, watercolor, camera or a brassiere.
Beginning in high school, when I discovered Matisse and VanGogh, through to today, when I see some artist I’ve never heard of, I have been intrigued by art. Not because I always understand it, but because of the mystery. A painting may be beautiful, “The Girl with the Pearl Earring,” realistically astounding, (Rembrandt’s self-portraits) or primally powerful (DeKooning’s Women series), but for me, it is discovering something new, previously unseen, that keeps me looking.
So while I had taken a few art classes in high school (everyone remember Mr. Judikic?), I had not pursued it either as a hobby or a profession. Instead, I went to museums and galleries to experience art. But just before I turned 40, a feeling came over me that I had to do something with my hands. I enrolled in a papier-mache class. Who knew a box, a toilet paper roll, the papier-mache and acrylic paint could be so fascinating? I collected armatures in every size from four-foot-long dresser drawers to two-foot cartons to mini styrofoam balls. My living room was morphing into a studio, and my dining room table was a resting ground for paints, bowls and brushes.
Then a friend suggested I take a painting class at the Art Students’ League, and from 1995, for about the next 10 years, I spent Tuesday evenings there. Those first three years were magical, and they ring vividly still today. The first year I had Joanna Pousette-Dart. She was a working artist, and scion of a family of artists. She insisted we learn how to stretch and gesso a canvas. An invaluable tool in these days of the ready-mades. When I mentioned to her that I was going to start with a small canvas, she retorted, “Go big. Once you go big, you’ll never go small again.” I immediately began purchasing five and six foot stretcher bars. Joanna would say things like, “The more you see, the more you see,” and constantly remind us to “Look at the night sky because there are so many colors.”
After Joanna, I took classes with Knox Martin who was also a great teacher in ways far different than Joanna. Despite the massive glass erections that have erupted on the West Side Highway his presence remains and reigns:
My favorite quote of his was, “Monet didn’t deserve to suck VanGogh’s brush.”
At home, on top of the escalating papier-mache sculptures, I had paintings all over the place in various stages of completion. I would get up in the morning, and paint and come home after work and paint. Saturday morning was spent stretching and gessoing and papier-maching and then running around trying to see gallery shows.
My passion for materials led me from acrylics to oils to watercolors, paper, and fabric and beads and thread and anything else that seemed usable. If a painting wasn’t working, I’d cut it up, and make a collage.
Lately, it has been impossible to paint. For one thing I seem to need more sleep, but also because the studio now doubles as a storage space. So I draw and do watercolors and mini-collages. But I know all of my ideas are being stored for when the easel can re-emerge.