Saturday, March 23, 2013

Artist Profile: John Fisher

I first met stone carver John Fisher during one of his public sculpting events, which took place over a 3-month period in 2012. I visited John weekly while he sculpted a 12-ton block of Texas limestone, transforming it into 11 life-size human figures (8 adults and 3 children), along with a dog, a cat, a mouse, a squirrel, a lizard, an owl, a fox, a chicken, a turtle and a rabbit--all done on the spot and made up entirely from his prodigious imagination.

As John and I became friends I grew ever more impressed by his generous spirit, passion for art, and joyful pursuit of excellence.

For a more in-depth look at John Fisher and his art, please see my interview with him here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tribute: Fred Fixler

I'm sad to report that the great Fred Fixler died yesterday. Fred was an extraordinary artist, teacher, and friend, and one of my mentors. He was the original owner of the California Art Institute, and inspired hundreds of artists in Southern California—several of whom are among the world's best. It amazes me how Fred's influence has prospered. Jeremy Lipking never knew Fred, for instance, but some of his early teachers did, and because of this I can see Fred's influence in Jeremy's work.

Fred didn't complement his students much, but if he liked one of your drawings or paintings, he would put it up on the classroom wall. In time, if he really liked it, he would transfer the work to the main hallway wall, where visitors could see examples of the school's student work. Believe me, it was a high honor to have one of your pieces placed on that wall.

One day when I arrived at a class taught by Mark Westermoe at the California Art Institute in Calabasas, Fred approached me and said that Mark was too busy to teach that day, and could I take over for him? I was nervous as hell but accepted the invitation, and did my best to give a good demonstration for the other students and teach them well. Apparently I passed the test, because from that time onward whenever Mark couldn't make it, I was called upon to substitute. Before long Mark became busy enough with his freelance work to stop teaching many of his classes, and I was asked to take them over. Soon I was teaching three classes each week—sometimes four—and I continued to do so for 15 years, even after Fred retired and sold the school to Buddy Schumann.

Let's see: an average of 7 students per class, 3 days per week, 4 semesters per year... that equals some 1,260 students. Wow! And it all started with Fred having enough confidence in my abilities to ask me to teach. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I'll always be grateful for the opportunity he gave me.

I wish to express my sympathy to Liz, Evan, and the rest of Fred's family and friends. We all miss him, and are profoundly grateful for what he gave us.

Postscript: Greg Pro has put together a wonderful website as a tribute to Fred, which can be found here. Many of his past students have left comments (including myself), and the list is growing. Check the website often as more items are being added all the time.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Artist Profile: Clayton J. Beck III

After graduation from the American Academy of Art in Chicago, Clayton studied at the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts with Richard Schmid. Clayton’s career began while still at the American Academy, exhibiting at Jody Kirberger’s Talisman Gallery and winning awards from the Midwest Pastel Society, the Palette and Chisel and the Pastel Society of America. He began teaching Saturday classes in Chicago after graduation from art school.

Artist Statement: “My love for painting has always been enhanced by my love to teach. Any artist who thinks they understand painting should try teaching. They will soon realize how little they know. I have always felt that I have a responsibility to teach because I have been given a generous gift from my teachers (i.e. Bill Parks, Ted Smuskiewicz, and Richard Schmid) and it should be passed on to the next generation of painters who share this love of art.

Visit Clayton's website.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Photographer Profile: Christiane Covington

Today I learned that a friend of mine from may years ago died on May 13, 2009, of a drowning accident on the island of Maui, Hawaii. Her name was Christiane Covington, and she was a lover of motion pictures and the craft of film making; I never knew anyone so passionate about cinema as Christy. We met while working together on Alex Seligman's UCLA graduate student film "Macaroni Casserole," where I discovered that Christy was an excellent photographer—the best I have ever known. She also had a lovely singing voice, and I had the privilege of recording a few songs with her.

In more recent years Christy worked as script supervisor on many feature films and TV programs, too numerous to mention here. But if you're interested, here is her biography on the Internet Movie Database.

Christy was a dreamer, and if she decided to do something, she would follow that path relentlessly until her dream was fulfilled. She was the first female dolphin trainer at Sea World--at a time when the field was dominated by men. She basically hung around until they realized that she wasn't going away, so they HAD to hire her. That was the way Christy operated. If she wanted something, nothing could stop her.

Christy was born with an aesthetic eye, and with creativity in her blood. She wrote many screenplays, directed many plays, and made several independent films. Her dream was to be a feature film director, and I know that if she lived, one day she would have met that goal, too.

I should also say that Christy was a very spiritual person and a peaceful soul, always seeking to know about life and her place in it. She had a boundless curiosity, a kind disposition, and loads and loads of talent. The world has suffered a great loss because she is no longer here to contribute to its well-being.

Here is Christy singing a song.

Here is a lovely video tribute, made by her sister, Cassandra.

This one's for you, Christy.