Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Voice of the Teacher

Last Saturday I had the privilege of painting alongside the artist and teacher Max Ginsburg (b. 1931)

He drove up with several of his students to take part in a six-hour figure painting session hosted by Garin Baker's Carriage House Atelier near Newburgh, New York. Max is in the lower right, below.

As we painted, Max offered helpful advice to his students. "Big artists use big brushes," he said as we were all beginning.

Here is Max's six-hour study. The light was set up so that so that it was stronger on the top half of the figure, and he was attentive to the value-mixing required to get the progression of tone. "There's a build up from this tone to that one," he said. He explained how he was painting across the form, rather than just along it, and how he softened certain edges, such as along the shin and the calf.

With some of the students, he worked directly on their paintings, but he left problems for them to solve. "I'll leave something for you to do. I think you'll get this by the time you're eighty. That's how old I am."

Here's my painting. Although I'm not one of his students, I was hanging on Max's every word because I've never heard the voice of a painting teacher before.

It wouldn't be accurate to say I'm self-taught. I was taught by people who were already dead when I found them: Andrew LoomisNorman RockwellHarold SpeedSolomon Solomon, and Howard Pyle. Fortunately their words have come down to us through the printed page. As an art student, I read those books as if my life depended on them. I cherished all their words, but I couldn't hear their voices.

I finished my painting a little early, and had a half hour left at the end, so I turned and drew Max, thinking of the great gift his teaching has been to the thousands of students he has nurtured over the years.

Carriage House Atelier
Max Ginsburg
Thanks, Susan Daly Voss and Eric Wilkerson for the photos.


Johan said...

His painting "The Beggar" has left a deep impression on me, and I've not even seen it in real.
I'm crazy about his subject matter... ordinary people doing their thing are worth to be portrayed no less than a rich banker or coorporate director. He saw that all too well.

James Gurney said...

Kev Ferrara, who was also painting with us that day, remembered some other quotes of Max.

"How come everybody hears me when I whisper?" (When he was stage-whispering to Garin that the model was out of position.)

"An hour for lunch? Aren't you guys serious around here?"

"Garin, if he wants it, give it to him." (About someone, possibly me, frustrated while fishing for crumbs of praise from Garin.)

"Eh, it's so-so." (About his own painting.)

"Are you going to make me a dinosaur?" (When he found out that Jim was drawing him.)

"Actually, I just wanted to sit." (When he plops down in a student's chair to, ostensibly, demonstrate directly on their painting.)

"It's okay (that you wiped out), Garin. You're so fast that you can paint a whole other painting!"

The slyest things Max says, in my opinion, occur when he teases/crits you by implication...

Looking at a painting where only the legs had been painted in, "Hey, I like what you're doing with those legs."

jeff said...

Max sounds a little like Groucho Marx.

He's an amazing painter.

JonInFrance said...

Two very nice pieces from you, James!

Amelia Murdock said...

Your painting looks amazing! I love it!

Ken said...

I think you can sort of call yourself self taught if no one is looking over your shoulder to correct your mistakes..

Mary Aslin said...

Really wonderful painting of yours and a great summary. Wish I could have been there!!

Ray Bonilla said...

fantastic post Mr.Gurney. Your painting is unbelievable!

Christoffer Gertz Bech said...

I spent this winter at Studio Escalier in France, studying with Tim Stotz and Michelle Tully.

Tim talked about the voice of his teacher, Ted Seth Jacobs, which apparently is quite characteristic. Tim and his fellow students would try and make the best Ted-impersonations they could, when they were off class. They were just having fun, but it turned out to help them remember his points - Tim says that Ted's voice is still there commenting when he draws.

Dan Kent said...

Psssst. Although I am partial to nude women, I like your painting better than Max's, and his is great! I like the way you tell the tale too.

Erik Bongers said...

Talking of quotes - James Gurney made quite a quote himself on this blog post.

"It wouldn't be accurate to say I'm self-taught. I was taught by people who were already dead when I found them."

That's one to keep.
Mail it to your biographer.

Marianne said...

Your painting is wonderful, I wish I could find a good art teacher where I live!

Anonymous said...

And your words come down to us through digital pages!
So thanks for your awesome blog.

Max Ginsburg's study is great too.