1966-1974: Art student.
December 21, 2015 by kblumenau
When you’re a kid, you never stop to think how your parents and grandparents achieved their particular talents.
If I thought about it at all, I probably thought that my grandfather (my brother and I called him “Drawing Boy”) had been effortlessly turning out painted canvases and sketched caricatures for decades, with as much inborn natural grace as he used to remove a splinter.
I didn’t have any concept of the work he’d put into his artistic skills. He’d just always been doing it.
Discovering his daily calendars and some of his personal journals has brought into better focus the effort he put into improving his art.
I can’t ever remember seeing him go to art class — maybe because he would have blown off such events when I was in town, to spend time with his family.
His calendars have schooled me on the number of classes he took in the ’60s and ’70s. In the early days, his classes were simply a hobby. As he got older and retired, they filled other needs: They also became a chance to get out of the house where he spent most of his time, meet like-minded new people, feed his head with knowledge, and relax.
As with his other public endeavors, I wonder whether anyone from those long-ago art classes remembers him. Is there someone still kicking around Fairfield County who sat in the same room with an earnest, friendly retired draftsman from Springdale? Someone who chatted with him about Vietnam or OPEC or Bobby Valentine during breaks from the easel?
If there is … well, the Comments box is at the bottom of this post.
In the meantime, I’ll devote the rest of this week’s post to drawings and notes from my grandpa’s sketchbook, spanning roughly the years 1966 to 1974. (Some are dated, some are not.)
There’s probably nothing here you won’t find in the journals of a half-million people who have taken art classes over the years.
Still, the drawings mean something to me, just because they represent my grandpa simultaneously at work and at play, learning and relaxing, unwinding and improving … and, above all, doing something near to his heart.
I didn’t see a lot of that firsthand as a kid, but I enjoy seeing it now.
Undated, but one of the first shots I have from the art notebook. My grandpa comes face to face with an eternally difficult lesson: Technique is just a means to express what you have to say.
Oct. 24, 1966. Learning the formal basics of perspective.
Oct. 17, 1966. Don’t worry, I’m not gonna show you every single page of detail from his sketchbook. Just found this interesting. Wonder if people taking art class today get the same primer on colors?
March 4, 1968. “DON’T MAKE UNINTERESTING LINE.” Easy to say, hard to live by. (This entire blog post might be an uninteresting line. Sorry, folks. I haven’t taken any blogging classes.)
Circa 1969. Some interesting aphorisms here. (Whoops, forgot to mention that you can click these pictures to see them larger.) Wonder when my grandpa achieved the 100-watercolor threshold?
Circa 1969. I can’t remember any painting of my grandpa’s in which he went into such detail on trees. His poplar looks kinda fake, but I totally buy his birch. No dogwoods, unfortunately.
I kinda love this one; it looks like my grandfather is creating a windblown New England hill-village from scratch, like a merciful yet puritan God. In my mind this is somewhere near the Quabbin Reservoir.
We skip ahead to January 1973. Some hippy-dippiness interspersed with some useful tips. The teacher, who asks, “Who likes dirty snow?,” has clearly never lived near the Great Lakes in April.
Year-end 1973. It ain’t cheap being an artist, yo.
Year-end 1974. Note that he’s got some money incoming to offset his expenses. Who bought “Full Steam Ahead” and “Reflections On A Rainy Day,” and are they still on somebody’s wall?
Back to February 1973. Some useful tips on surf — though, again, I am not sure my grandpa ever availed himself of them in his personal art.
July 10, 1973. I doubt my grandpa hunted or spotted ducks once in his lifetime, so this lesson on marshes and estuaries must have been useful. Somebody’s darling grandson was five days old.
Sept. 18, 1973. The birthday of a friend of mine who grew up in Rochester but whom I didn’t meet until college. The sketch at bottom predates a painting in my personal collection.
One last from mid-September 1973. We leave my grandpa contemplating the intersection of metropolis and tugboat. Is there any god or cosmic force that disapproves of a humble tugboat?