Drawing with Michael Grimaldi
The Art Students League of New York has a long and distinguished history. It has been remarkable for the range of viewpoint and the depth of tuition over its long life.
The atelier system is centre. The instructor visits the studio twice a week. For the rest of the time, monitors look after the class, the models,the paperwork.
In general, students help each other, but the instructors influence is pervasive, and idiosyncratic. As it should be. In true American style those instructors survive who attract students. No tenure here! And no guidance from a bureaucracy as to how things should be done.
Legendary teachers have included George Bridgeman. Robert Beverly Hale, Nicolaides, William Merrit Chase, Arthur Wesley Dow. Students who have become instructors include..George Bellows, Thomas Hart Benton, Alexander Calder, Helen Frankenthaler, Georgia O’Keeffe, Barnett Newman, Norman Rockwell, Winslow Homer, Man Ray, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Robert Rauschenberg, James Rosenquist, Louise Nevelson, Reginald Marsh, Romare Bearden, Red Grooms, Donald Judd, Roy Lichtenstein, Mark Rothko, Ben Shahn and Cy Twombly. – See more at: http://www.theartstudentsleague.org/About/History.aspx#sthash.iDDhQP90.dpuf
Michael Grimaldi has a reputation which is richly deserved. In fact, he has two of them. It seems that in his case, there are two categories of student. Those who need his assistance and those who dont. Apparently,I fell into the ” dont need help ” category.
At first i found this studied silence disconcerting. Having paid for tuition i had a right to expect it. I didnt recognise the form in which it would come.Keeping one eye on the other students, one eye on the model, and one eye on my drawing induced a state of paranoia and confusion and i began to doubt my abilities. I began to wish for the intervention that the instructor could bring.
It then became necessary to use a fourth eye to observe the teacher, his proximity,length of time in the room, who he decided to help. His behaviour in avoiding me was deliberate. Eye contact was studiously directed away from me, but that could be shyness.From my initial surmise that i was simply inadvertantly overlooked, i had realised this exclusion was a conscious strategy.To what end?
Why had i been singled out? I began to probe. Very quickly i realised i was not alone. There was a category of students who had had the same experience. Some were no longer Michaels students. They had moved on.The more i asked,the more i found.,
Then it hit me . From the Zen Master -a slap in the face. Enlightenment! The lesson was that we did not need the master. He had nothing we could not conjure from our own experience. Possibly he felt inadequate beyond mere demonstration.Useless surmise.
This realization was humbling. I admit to feeling from then on, a little smug looking at those students who were so dependant they had to be painstakingly corrected every session .The temptation to give pointless faint but useless praise to those like myself .(clearly a master of our craft.,)must be huge .Michael resisted.
In 3 months Michael has not so much as spoken to me. I am indebted to his unswerving dedication that I should grasp the reality of my own destiny. In his own mind, he is clearly deserving of both his reputations.
In my Silence induced euphoria,I see that reputations dont matter,and neither does Michael Grimaldi.
It had to happen. Michael introduced himself on my last day in New York. He was not to know that.He spoke about transition tones from the crescent shadow revealing the plane structure at the same time, and where two planes intersected in the same tone informing us of the angle of incidence of the light. He discussed the . ” drop off .” of light and the simultaneous contrasts of lights and darks.Clearly Michael was at pains to show my ignorance,and his knowledge. I explained the simplification of forms of old painters was due to arthritis and blindness. He added free will. I now suspect he has a psychological problem. A pity.
And here from the Masters own Voice is all that is needed to compare what is said, and done.
Artist’s Statement by Michael Grimaldi.
After searching in vain for a classical teacher of painting and drawing, I was fortunate to find some instructors that could not only paint and draw but also could verbalize and demonstrate their ideas and skills. These giving professors opened my eyes to a whole new world, encouraging me while teaching me the fundamentals that will remain with me throughout my lifetime. I feel that the early education an artist receives is imperative to his or her underlying skill and work ethic. Being convinced that many of my progressive steps in drawing and painting are the result of my training, I feel it is only fair to pass on what I have learned.
I teach because I believe that everyone must be given the chance to see, to develop, to learn the basics, which will serve to translate the vision into reality. Also, since the learning process never ends, I, too, learn from my teaching experiences. If I am able to help someone of the difficult path of creating, I feel that I am passing on an invaluable service that has been passed on to me. If I can convey my analytical work process to others – adding my own collective views and ideas to those which I’ve been taught – I feel that I will make an important contribution to that which is essential to the continuance and progression of classical/realist art in the next century.
AH Michael …….”between word and act……….”