David Bruce: The Coolest People in Art — Education

Education

• Spanish artist Salvador Dalí attended Madrid’s San Fernando Institute of Fine Arts, where he was a good student. Often, he worked so long and so hard on his art that by the time he showed up at the student dining hall everyone else had eaten and the dining hall had closed. His teachers knew that he was exceptional. To be admitted to the school, he was supposed to turn in a drawing of a certain size to be evaluated. His drawing was the wrong size, but the evaluators knew that his work was exceptional and so they admitted him anyway. Salvador, though young, knew more than his teachers in many ways. He was interested in technique, but his teachers thought that the most important thing in art was emotion. Most of the students agreed with the teachers. One exception to bad teachers was José Carbonero, one of whose students had been Pablo Picasso, but the students did not respect Mr. Carbonero. This shocked Salvador. “The pupils laughed at him,” Salvador later wrote. They laughed “at his coat, the black pearl stickpin he wore in his tie, and his white gloves. His skill was unmatched, but no sooner did he turn his back than the little upstarts erased his corrections, which in fact reflected the gifts of a true master. I preferred to keep apart from that bunch of loafers and idiots, and go on with my Cubist experiments.” Salvador read art journals and studied contemporary artists whom the teachers knew nothing about. His teachers did not know anything about Cubism! When he had completed his course of study and was supposed to take a final oral exam to get his degree, Salvador showed his contempt for his teachers. The students were supposed to talk intelligently on a topic drawn at random. Salvador was supposed to speak about the Renaissance artist Raphael, whom he had studied in detail, but Salvador did not talk about him. Instead, he told the jury of professors, “Gentlemen, with all due respect it is impossible for me to talk about this in front of these three professors because I know much more about Raphael than all of you put together.” Perhaps needless to say, Salvador was not awarded a degree.

• Jay Ryan has learned many lessons as a gifted creator of posters, many of them for bands: 1) In college he learned something wonderful from professor Peter Kursel, who found out that Jay had discovered a stack of paper in a dumpster. Peter advised him to sit down and draw on every sheet of paper. Jay says, “I sat down on a Saturday and worked for something like eight or ten hours, and when I was finished I had this big stack of 300 really terrible drawings. But that forced me to actually make a lot of things and not worry about if they’re good or not.” 2) From working in his basement, Jay learned to work in an area with lots of headroom. The basement had a 6’2” ceiling, and since Jay is 6’4”, he hit his head three times each day. 3) Jay once created a poster for a record. The (incorrect) name “Membraphonics” appeared on the poster; the (correct) name that appeared on the record was “MembraNAphonics.” What did Jay learn? He says, “It’s a good idea to check the spelling of unfamiliar words with the client before printing.” 4) He also learned to keep his posters away from pets: A poster for the band Lullaby for the Working Class is rare because his roommate’s dog ate most of them.

• When he was in high school, children’s book author and illustrator Frank Asch knew that he wanted to be an artist, but he did not know whether he had enough talent to be an artist. Fortunately, one day he walked into his art classroom and discovered a whole bulletin board filled with his art, above which his art teacher had written, “Frank Asch: One Man Show.” That was enough for him to think that he could maybe be an artist someday. Of course, he did become an artist — for kids. When he isn’t busy creating books for children or adding to his collection of heart-shaped rocks or visiting schools or home-schooling children or visiting his horses or dog, he answers letters from children. For a while, when he wrote them back, he would ask them to finish this sentence: “The Earth and I ….” Most children wrote back, “The Earth and I are friends,” and he used that sentence as the main idea in a book titled, of course, The Earth and I.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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THE COOLEST PEOPLE IN ART

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