Friday, August 8, 2014

Art Cred

(click on images)
My reproduction sketch of Daumier 
(I think "The Judge")
Who to believe in terms of credentials anymore?  According to Malcom Gladwell - it's a function of time by way of quantity in the 10,000 hours rule detailed in his book: Outliers: The Story of Success (Gladwell, 2008).  For others it's the amount of education - degrees earned, proximal juxtaposition and so on.

Recently I've thought about how I would convey credentials to support my presented creative work, sparked by a recent re-design of my online art site (   This set me off on an array of paths - but especially the path of validation via formal training - to which I have almost none.  In fact, I have had exactly one class in art while an undergrad at the University of Michigan.  It wasn't even a formal art class as it was offered as an art review elective for those in the Literature, Arts, and Science college - which was far removed both physically and (probably) philosophically, from the actual art college at the university.  This class, coupled with a 30 minute lesson from my mother on drawing perspective, probably puts me under 20 hours of art training in total and allows me to use “self-taught” at best.

I suppose by proximity, given that both parents were artists and designers - I could count the legacy constiuent.  Truth be told, I spent most of my youth running from everything that my parents stood for - and is really the only explanation for my Alex P. Keaton-ish high school wardrobe of polyester suit jackets, grandmother's borrowed pearls and pointy collared oxford shirts found in clearance bins.

Stepping back some 30 years to 1982, I have brief but clear memories of the class.  I remember getting the supply list and being overjoyed at having to legitimately buy colored markers, Bienfang sketch pads, charcoal pencils, pastels, white erasers, and a red plastic tackle box; otherwise frivolous purchases on a college budget.
What does a 20 year old know?

I also remember the teacher.  In my mind he seemed to be about 93 -- but in reviewing the facts, he was more likely nearing 70.  (To a twenty year old, the in-congruence was negligible.)  He was tall, lanky and had a wide smile that was sometimes footnoted with a bow tie. He loved everything, but especially everything exuding color.

There were a number of students in the class hailing from the New Jersey/New York border that took this course for an easy grade and had no interest in, or capability for, art.  I know this because they loudly proclaimed such facts between gum cracks, extended eye-rolling side looks and regularly lobed less-than-complimentary comments about our professor.

I didn’t know much more about him and was fearful of becoming a target of classmates should I have attempted a connection, but he had the happiness of a puppy or of someone who, nearing the end, had chosen sheer delight over the sheer heaviness of life.  Though my tough years still lay ahead – even back then,  I knew this only came from deep despair and a choice to overcome.  I also knew he had a house somewhere north of campus that lay ensconced in color and art projects.

Later, I came to believe that this was most likely the last class ever taught by Gerome Kamrowski:

“In 1948 he moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan to teach at the University of Michigan School of Art. He stayed at the University of Michigan until his retirement 1982. Very few of his students over the next fifty years realized that their teacher was one of the most important artists in America. Gerome Kamrowski worked every single day at his art.”  
          Wikipedia.  Retrieved August 8, 2014 from 

The only mark from Kamrowski 
I could find was the
circled check under my name
Retrieving and then searching my class sketch book for any handwritten notes on assignments - netted me nothing.  (Mold claimed my portfolio years ago along with all of my actual assignments from the class.)  My thought was, if I had nothing – at least I might have the handwriting and possibly signature of a famous artist.  As all good paths do, this detoured into spending some time looking through the sketch book that I still possess.
Extreme Color

A type of reductive print
from the bleed through
I recalled he was quite complimentary of my work (which was no more or less complimentary than what he offered  everyone - given his sunny nature).  He particularly loved colored marker pieces and thought those were the best examples in my portfolio; I did not agree.  I will say that I did use my markers more completely than others and halfway through the class, they dried up.  I can only guess that the fumes consumed me and I simply did not know where or when to stop. I found many sheets that had wicked additional color out of those markers.  I continued with the less effusive pastels from my tackle box.
Markers nearly dried up
at this point

A few more imparted points of wisdom from Kamrowski were recalled as I perused further. He talked about the importance of identifying ourselves in our work. We had assignments that included our thumbprint, our footprint, the creation of a chop block from our initials, etc.  He also had us copy numerous works from Honoré Daumier – and then infuse them with color.  Pretty much what you might expect from an intro art class – with a splash of color added for lightness.

What I thought adding color meant
What Kamrowski thought adding color meant

And my chop

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