Lately I’ve been cognitively challenged in respect to painting. I am turning 67 in August so I am wondering if my mind is more confused now. However, artists should always be welcoming the ups and downs in their creative process if they want to be good.
I decided to challenge my challenge by enrolling in a painting class at Lehman College in the Bronx. Now I’m out of my comfort zone and doing a reset as a beginner. My theory is when I’m stuck revert back to being a beginner. Now every Thursday morning I take the crowded BX10 bus and show up at 9:30 am even when my mind says “I don’t wanna”. Even when there isn’t an inspirational thought in my head. I get to the studio and work on a painting project that is dictated by the professor. This gets me out of doing it my way. Humility. Now I stare at a blank canvas with a blank mind. God what can I paint??? I have to paint my first self portrait. Ugh. Just do it Jean. Whatever comes out comes out. So here is my first self portrait in acrylic.
My mission to engage people in creativity is finally happening! My painting classes at the Riverdale Senior Center have now begun their 3rd session!! This post is to show the incredible art from people who never painted before.
And a new student who is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s has joined. Robert is a professional artist who studied at the Art Students League. He has a studio upstate New York. However, since his mental decline he has not done art for a long time. I told him the first day that he is still an artist and he can create just like Monet when his eyesight went bad.
My painting classes are not about skill. I do not teach technique. There is a very spiritual connection to art and one student, Margery, has exceptional talent.
So here’s to Riverdale’s emerging artists. And please do not refer to them as seniors dabbling in art. Their work is fearless and vibrant. Totally alive and ageless!
The following are by Robert who has Alzheimer’s:
STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO
When I started to answer calls for artists I was given an opportunity to have a solo show on the Lower East hip lounge the Sapphire Lounge. You know when you are new to all this you jump at anything. My first solo show!!!
Challenge #1 – transporting a lot of paintings from Queens to NYC. Trying to save money I ended up with a small van and a very interesting driver who was able to fit all the paintings in the van. Challenge #1 no problem.
Challenge #2 – unloading paintings as the rain started to come down. Oh no the manager is not in the lounge now…got to wait. After a half hour the manager’s assistant showed and helped unload. Challenge #2 no problem.
Challenge #3 – Hang paintings. PROBLEM! Okay the manager’s assistant was not really willing to help me. I was alone and frustrated and always relied on my son. Now the assistant is an old man from another country that I don’t remember. He comes look at my work. He stares quietly. Then says “I have to get my tools to help you”. Turns out he is a traditional painter. He told me he liked my work and my clouds were beautiful. I guess he was happy to see art that he could understand. Challenge #3 revised to no problem.
So we hung it all and I stood back to admire the walls. The manager walks in and says great. This is my opening night of my first solo show. Things are good. Then the manager tells me that tonight is a special night at the lounge:
IT’S GOING TO BE A RAPPER CONTEST!
My heart sunk as I thought this is really going clash with my landscapes and rap music. I learned the lesson of match your venue to your art. But a miracle happened.
I saw the back of a very large man and he was looking at my paintings in silence. I went up to him. He was a rapper and he was the organizer of the contest. We looked at each other and he smiled and said “did you do these paintings”. I timidly said “yes”. His smile got larger as he pointed to the big cloud. “These are beautiful!” I could not believe my ears. He was emotional looking at my work.
I left the lounge that night with the rappers thanking me for the beautiful art for their show. MY WORK TRANSCENDED CULTURES! WOW!
today I was journaling about the brick wall I hit when I tell a person that they don’t have to be good to do art. People think art is not important. People think art is meaningless to them. People rather rack up credit card debt shopping for things that end up in their closets.
I believe coloring books should be banned!! Kids who struggle coloring in the lines think they are failures in art. The fact is true art is done outside the lines. That is true creativity.
My mission is to get people to see that creativity needs to be part of their lives. It is not just for the talented. Art is necessary for the brain. Creativity works the brain by stimulating ideas. Ideas keep the brain youthful.
America wake up! Art and culture are what makes us civilized. Kids in rural America turn to destructive forms of behavior because they have no opportunity to be creative or look at beautiful art. They end up on the internet or shooting up schools. Art can help people with mental illness.
We need to stop treating art as a subject that has no importance to our lives. Creativity needs to be seen as a valuable part of everyone’s life. It has to be seen as vital to the human experience. It is not a frivolous activity to be ignored.
And please don’t tell me you can’t draw a straight line. Creativity is not about straight lines.
ART IS IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE!!!
The picture below is my first show at the Art Students League. My son was proud of his mother.
This is a self portrait of my illustration teacher Max Ginsberg who taught at the High School of Art & Design in NYC. I attended the school graduating in 1970.
Mr. Ginsberg encouraged me to enter the National Scholastic Art Competition. I never would have done it. He told me to enter my charcoal life sketch I did in his class. He saw something I didn’t see in that drawing. I never expected to win an award but I did!! My drawing was exhibited in the lobby of the Lever Brothers building on Park Avenue with other winners !
Max Ginsberg is an awesome painter and is infamous in the world of art. I love the painting of the girls in the subway above. He never told any student that they should paint like him. I couldn’t paint like him ever. But he always pushed an artist who he saw had their own creativity.
I since then have gone to art schools where the students try to imitate the style of their infamous instructors. A lot of instructors bask in this flattery. When a class has a show of their work you can tell who the instructor is. Am I crazy or is there something screwy going on?
isn’t art an expression of who you are? I love Max Ginsberg because his only objective was to help an artist develop skills and a good basic training in art.
How can you be seen for who you are if you paint like someone else?
Saturday morning free painting class at the Art Students League. It is not pretty. Unaware of mass chaos finding a spot to paint I was left with a spot so close to the platform where the model posed. I looked up and all I could see was her nose.
I don’t like crowds and there is a wild competitive feeling in the air. I’m sitting on the floor cramped and I’m losing that happy creative mindset I came in with.
I decided to play with the uninspiring view and called it a day. I had to get away from the savage artists of the League. They are selfish, self seeking, and inconsiderate. They will run you over to get the perfect spot.
I don’t understand why they are so into painting exactly like the instructor. The instructor’s ego encourages it. There is no appreciation of an artistic style. When the class does a show in the gallery it’s like looking at mini me of the instructor.
It was a challenge going there. I did as long as I could. I did it for my art. Then one day my anatomy instructor (he loved my drawings) whispered in my ear “IT’S TIME TO FLY “. Meaning get the hell out before you wither and die. I was good enough to stop being a student. I was a true artist.
You can’t be an art student forever. A lot of those artists never leave. They are waiting for the day they achieve perfection. Forever fighting for the best spot.