• Novelist Sarah Waters remembers a teacher who inspired her:Ed Tanguay, who in the 1980s taught art at the Milford Haven grammar school in south-west Wales. One day, he forgot to wear a tie to school, so he had his art students make him one — out of painted cardboard. Ms. Waters says, “He was everything a good teacher should be: stern at times, but good natured; clever, creative, and fun.” Not every teacher is good, of course, and some people have never had a good teacher. Artist Dinos Chapman said in a newspaper interview, “I hated every single one of my teachers, and if any one of them are still alive, I hope they read this. They were horrible old fascists, convinced you could beat education into kids, and they threatened to cut my hair because I had lovely locks back then. It obviously traumatized me because now I’m completely bald.”
• Architect Frank Gehry learned an important lesson early in his life from Glen Lukens, who taught him ceramics at the University of Southern California. Mr. Lukens wanted to establish a ceramics industry in Haiti, and Mr. Gehry helped him by testing various glazes to see if they would work well when applied to Haitian soil. Once, the glaze came out absolutely beautiful, and Mr. Gehry said, “It’s just wonderful what can happen with the kiln and all those glazes.” Mr. Lukens responded, “Stop. From now on, when things like that happen, you take credit for it, because you did it. You made the pot. You put the glaze on. You put it in the kiln. You’re allowed to claim credit for it, and I want you to do that.” Today, Mr. Gehry says, “That was a very important lesson that resonates for me even now.”
• After Norman Rockwell’s first wife, Mary, died in 1959, friends waited a suitable interval, and then they encouraged Norman to get out into the world. Norman was interested in poetry, so he took a class in poetry that was taught by Molly Punderson. In class, Norman was an original. The class studied some poetry by Robert Frost, who was then still alive, and when Norman was puzzled by some lines in one of Mr. Frost’s poems, he thought of an alternative to the class discussing the lines and trying to discover their meaning — someone should telephone Mr. Frost and ask him what the lines meant. Molly must have enjoyed her unusual student: In 1961, Norman and Molly got married.
• When she was very young, children’s book illustrator Denise Fleming used to decorate her school papers with drawings in an attempt to get better grades. Actually, her 3rd-grade teacher was so impressed by Denise’s drawings that she suggested that Denise take art classes. Denise did take art lessons at the Toledo Museum of Art, and she and her classmates spent lots of time looking at the art in the museum. She was especially impressed by Monet’s water lilies and by a landscape by Vincent van Gogh and by Picasso’s Woman with Crow. She adds, “And then there was this anatomically correct baby Jesus that we all found incredible, especially me because I had no brothers.”
• Education is immensely important in art appreciation — it enhances the pleasure of looking at art. For example, at the bottom of Gerald David’s The Rest on the Flight into Egypt, some carefully chosen plants appear at the feet of the Madonna and Child. They include a clump of violets, which symbolize the humility of the Virgin. They also include ferns, which were regarded as a protection against evil. And they include wild strawberry plants, which have three leaves, making them a Christian symbol of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
• The education of an artist can begin very early. Children’s book illustrator and author Ruth Heller uses an artistic technique in her professional work that she learned in elementary school. She begins the creation of an illustration by drawing on tracing paper, then she turns the tracing paper over and transfers the drawing to watercolor paper by using a butter knife or a Popsicle stick to rub the lines. Ms. Heller says, “I learned to do that in the 2ndgrade, and it still works for me.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
THE COOLEST PEOPLE IN ART
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