We gathered today in our usual painting room at the Creative Workshop of the MAG. Most of us are long-time students of Fred Lipp’s and our week revolves around Tuesday’s class. A good percentage of the day class were there and our night class had a respectable showing but our teacher wasn’t there. He’s quite sick and we were meeting for two reasons: to discuss a tribute show in his honor and secondly, to determine how to carry on. I specifically did not say “carry on without him” because the gifts he gave us are ours to use.
As the group dispersed a few us were standing around taking about Fred’s teaching method. Bill Keyser was telling my father how he would have a list of things he was about to do and Fred would come by and say, “Forget about your plan. Look at your painting right now.” This in fact may be Fred’s most important point. Always stay open to what is on the page right now. “Painting is not a destination. It is an adventure.” Step back and look at the work. “Always address the worst first.” When the “worsts” are gone, your painting may be done.
I’ve searched my past posts and collected some of the lessons I am still learning from him. I find these truisms apply to most disciplines, certainly music.
The class was not about Fred’s work. In fact he rarely showed. The first thing I saw by him was a sculpture/installation in a Finger Lakes show, ripped open pieces of re-tread tires spewing at you from the corner of the gallery. It was sensational and it went on to the statewide exhibit in Albany. His class is called “Advanced Painting” and students work in collage, watercolor, acrylic, oil, drawing or sculpture. His methods are the same for all mediums.
There are no assignments. He rotates around the room addressing individual students as they work and pretty much says the same thing to each. He does not want you to talk first when he gets to you. “Don’t talk it. Show me.”
His stock of grey paper is his primary teaching tool. With this neutral grey he would cover parts of your work to show you what currently works. He’ll sometimes cover three fourths of your painting and tell you, “There’s your painting.
Many of Fred’s students say “he taught me how to see.” More importantly, I think he teaches us to trust our eyes. We already know how to see but we don’t trust it. If you have doubts about something in your painting that would be your eye talking. “If the question comes up, the answer is yes.”
Fred can be brutal. In many sessions the first class was the last we would see of a new student. He was brutal because he was honest and painters who did not want to learn left.
We visited Fred in the hospital last week and I asked him if any of his students had brought their paintings up to his room. He got a good laugh out of that one. A painting was never done until Fred pronounced it “done.” And it was just as often sooner rather than later than you expected.
Learning is a lifelong process. I’ve pulled these thoughts from my posts over the years. This link will take you to a page with all the posts on Fred.
There is no replacing Fred Lipp. He is one of a kind. He has been a mentor in every sense of the word and I am not alone. He packed the lecture hall at the MAG last summer with his presentation on spacial constructs, a comparison of three paintings from the MAG’s collection by Hans Hoffmann, Josef Albers and John Koch.
His daughter wrote that Fred is “the essence of art.” His ideals will live forever.