Continuing a study of portraits at Monday’s SVA class, I worked on this painting of my cat Gigi. She’s solid black, with a small tuft of white on her chest, but as most cats are, she glows different colors in the daylight. She’s camera shy, but I was able to snap several images of her basking in the sun to get the strong light/contrast setting that is the most satisfactory to paint from. Of course I have an emotional attachment to the portrait sitter here, and as M. Ponsot discussed in class, it adds a certain element to the painting. One that goes beyond just rendering a likeness, but delves into the personality.
I’ve been thinking about my high school mentor Mirian Bedein. For decades, Miriam taught English to the rough kids in school, so she never taught me in a classroom. We met because she was the advisor to the school newspaper where I was the editor-in-chief. In the 1970s, it was all about protesting the war and sticking it to the man and womens rights and she taught me about the power of a great headline and the influence that journalism can have on readers. She also became my career advisor, as it was Miriam who talked to me about working as an artist. Under her encouragement, I applied to and attended Tyler School of Art, studied graphic design and photography, and went on to have a successful career as a magazine art director and graphic designer. With gratitude, I can say that we stayed in touch and got to see each other a few weeks before she passed away in 2011 right after Thanksgiving. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman sums up my feelings perfectly in this piece from 2001 about his high school journalism teacher.
I’ve taught as an adjunct at Parsons and NYU, and know that it is a challenging, rewarding, and always difficult thing to do. Our teachers, especially ones that influence us in ways big and small, are so deserving of our respect and admiration.