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.