I ran into a guy who was in my painting class for many years. He asked if I was still painting. I said I am drawing. He said I haven’t done anything in two years. That would be just about the time our teacher died. Fred Lipp affected many people that way. He was a way of going forward. Criticism, correction, repeat and then on to the next piece.
I too took a long break but I never stopped thinking about his advice. I live with his words in my head and the absolute last thing he would want would be for someone to stop when he left. I was going to move on from this whole crime face stuff but I’m not finished with it yet. I never will be but it sort of encompasses everything so why bother. And I have an opportunity to show a lot it in October so I’m carrying on.
I had to tell my mother again that her mother had died. She asked me where her mother was. She cried again. My mother was always very direct and she would not want me to lie to her even though she is suffering from dementia. I showed her a few photos of her mother and she liked them but she wasn’t sure who the baby was in this one.
My father started taking Fred Lipp’s painting class with me in 1995. My father called it “therapy” and there were many rough exchanges. Neither one of them were direct and they didn’t know what each other was talking about for the longest time. My father who was immensely talented had some rules that lived by. Fred claimed he could break any rule he wanted. He trusted his eye and his eye, developed by trust, was immensely talented. It took a some time for their relationship to mature and I was privileged to watch the whole thing develop.
I photographed my father’s paintings every four or five years and put them on his website. When he died last year I brought a huge pile of them here and I’ve been working my way through them. It is a huge project but I’ll eventually have them all on line. Fred helped my father a lot. I can spot the before and afters butFred help everybody – if they were open to being helped. Surprisingly some people would take the class who did not want to budge. Fred claimed his students helped him more than he helped us but I didn’t buy it. On Fred’s death bed he told me, “You’re father is a trip.” We both laughed at this ultimate compliment.
Janet Lipp, an artist and teacher like her father, invited Fred Lipp to talk to her class a few times over the years. In 2014 she videoed the presentation he gave to her MCC art class. I studied with Fred’s for many years and he hardly ever talked about his own work. So it is a joy to hear him do so here. He used the same thought process that he taught and it is especially powerful to see him pull it all off. I am so thankful he was willing to share what he loved.
The Creative Workshop had a celebration of Fred’s work tonight, a gathering of former students in conjunction with a show of their work in the Lucy Byrne Gallery. They were showing this movie in a separate room and in the building next door the Memorial Art Gallery had a painting of Fred’s that they bought in 1972, a big abstract called “Sculptural Fetish.” Fred would have loved it.
Fred (Fritz) Lipp passed away on Sunday morning. A tremendous loss for his family, his students and Rochester. I’ve written quite a bit here about him. His longtime students, our fellow painters, could find no reason to leave the advanced painting class once they found Fred. He had an amazing ability to always be there to take it up a notch. There was no end because as he often told us, he learned from the best. He conversed with Matisse, Van Gogh, El Greco and Guston when he stood in front of their paintings. “They talk to me,” he would say. And Fred loved to share what he learned. We were so lucky to have know him.
Every year the Creative Workshop would have a faculty show and Fred would show a new piece, something to blow your mind, but otherwise he was very quiet about his work. He was commissioned to create the sculpture shown above (please click on it for full photo) for Rochester General Hospital. Entitled “Omnipresent,” it was paid for by a wealthy donor and it originally sat in a courtyard where you could walk around the piece and experience the sculpture in space. The hospital expanded. The sculpture was moved to the Marion M. Whitbeck Garden, in a courtyard near the old entrance. The light that was inside the piece no longer shines. In fact it is not even wired as it was in its original location.
As fate would have it Fred spent some of his last days in this hospital and he visited his sculpture. He talked about the piece in our last conversation and we promised him we would do all we could to get the hospital to run an electric line to the sculpture. Maybe someday we will again see the light as it seeps out the artfully constructed openings.
Our friend, Alice, who was in the class when I first joined, emailed us this. “His words still ring around in my brain… when I paint or just in life… the wisdom applies to both life and art.” I’m quoting her because I feel exactly the same. It is our duty to duty to carry on with this wisdom.
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.
My father called this morning to tell me I should buy Jeff Spevak a few beers. He spotted the piece Jeff wrote in Sunday’s paper about the band and my art show at the Little. Nobody reads the paper anymore so I posted it below. I say nobody but I still do. I’m not sure Jeff does because he refers to the “Crimestopper” page as a “feature once run by the Democrat & Chronicle.” I’m working on fifteen now that were in the “A” section a few weeks back.
I snapped the photo above to remember what parts of my painting Fred Lipp covered. His grey paper is his primary teaching tool. and you can see it in action here. I was struggling with this one. It got away from me and too many parts were out of whack. He told me he liked how I carved with white in what is shown and this let me see what works. The parts under the paper were smoothed out or blended. The dreaded “blended.” He can sometimes cover three fourths of your painting and then tell you, “There’s your painting.
Paintings by Paul Dodd, Fast Forward Film Fest and G. Love
“The narcotic groove of Rochester’s avant-garde jazz combo Margaret Explosion has returned to its free, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday residency at The Little Café, 240 East Ave. So that’s happening all through May. As a bonus this month, the walls of the venue are filled with the odd, haunting portraits by the band’s drummer, Paul Dodd. The pencil sketches are taken from photos from “Crimestoppers,” head shots of people wanted by the Rochester Police Department, a feature once run by the Democrat & Chronicle (Don’t you ever accuse this newspaper of not supporting the arts).
Six oil portraits on the wall behind where the bands play are particularly intriguing. It’s the 1957 Mynderse Academy basketball team from Seneca Falls, Seneca County, taken from the school’s yearbook. The whole team, it had only six players. In his artist’s statement, Dodd says he picked the team because the players looked “especially hapless.” Indeed, as the headline accompanying the yearbook photo notes, “Team Faced Tough Competition.” Virtually all of the portraits, basketball players and second-degree assault suspects alike, are reduced to heads floating on a white background.” – Jeff Spevak D&C
When panting class is in session the whole week revolves around that night. We were there a half hour early for our three hour class and it still flew by. We are already starting another revolution. To be continually challenged, it doesn’t get any better than that.
I met Alice in Fred Lipp’s Advanced Painting class where she would often be working on abstracted versions of Maine landscapes. She’s living in one of those landscapes now and when we visited our conversation often turned to art and Fred’s class. She told us that one of the things she misses is overhearing Fred’s advice to another painter, someone working in a different medium and manner on a different subject, advice that was applicable to her at that moment.
I had this experience last night as Fred was talking to my father. He was comparing the beautiful little watercolors in his sketchbook to the sheet my father was working on, one that got away from him. The sketches, which Fred was calling finished paintings, captured fleeting moments with expression and confidence. The big sheet had been carefully planned and worked up with the sketch as a reference and my father said he felt as though he was just coloring it in. This is one of Fred’s favorite topics and was my father setting him up for another “painting should be an adventure, not the execution of a plan” raps. It’s a topic that bears repeated revisiting. This time I heard Fred say that you want to see the questioning in the final piece. I love that concept and intend utilize it in my own work.
We sent this song (one recorded live at the Little Theatre) over to Saxon Recording on East Main where Dave Anderson applied his digital/analog mastering tools to the file. The cover graphic is a photo of a Robert Irwin piece in the Albright Knox collection. Stop out tonight and hear the questioning.
My father worked from his sketches of the Charlotte lighthouse to create this watercolor in class last week. Amazing to watch him work so quickly in an additive medium that is so unforgiving of missteps. There are, certainly, missteps whenever you stretch or do something new. He is not beyond putting the whole sheet in the bathtub and washing it out. And he has a short, stubby brush that he uses to scrub out small sections. I watched him the other night as he took some figures and a sign right out of an Adirondack scene. The color came up and ran all over the piece as he soaked it up with a sponge. It is nearly impossible to reclaim a white. Opaque white is a sickly looking substance. You protect whites and they are often the strongest element in the end. It is a dangerous but seductive process.
One week later this lighthouse painting is in a show in the gallery at the Creative Workshop and I was taking this photo of it, trying to dodge the reflections from the glass, when someone behind me exclaimed, “I love that painting.” I proudly said, “My dad did it,” and he said, “I teach the watercolor class.” All very cool but you have to wonder why most classes are segregated by medium. Fred Lipp’s “Advanced Painting” class is the exception. I recently switched from charcoal to watercolor and then oil and needed to be be reminded that the intent is exactly the same. A change in form can be described by change in color just as a change in form is described by a change in line.
We usually park off Lyell Ave. on Verona or one of those side streets that lead up to the soccer stadium but last night that section of Lyell was completely blocked off with flashing cop cars so we parked in front of Sanda’s Saloon. After the game we decided to cruise down Lake Avenue, Lou Graham style, but when we got to Lake and Ridge the intersection was blocked by firetruck. There were a few ambulances attending to bodies in the street and some cars in unusual positions so we had to take Dewy down toward the lake. On the way across Lakeshore Boulevard we ran into a barricade near the beach. Turns out they were holding the Soap Box Derby this weekend on that hill, the same one they used when I was a kid, so we took the aptly named Kings Highway up to Titus. It was the beautiful night for detours.
I can’t imagine a worse day for a lecture inside a darkened hall. It was gorgeous out today, crystal clear and warm, but Fred Lipp packed the place for his talk on space in the Bausch & Lomb room of the Memorial Art Gallery. The talk based on depicting space in two dimensions, was brilliant. Having helped with the visuals we found it invigorating and only felt somewhat cheated because Fred didn’t have as much time to go over the carefully chosen paintings as he did when he was putting the show together. At the end of the slideshow a gentleman in the back stood up, thanked Fred and reminded him that it was bright sun outside. Fred did not miss a beat and said, “But it is illuminated in here.”
Fred Lipp, an artist and teacher at the Creative Workshop is giving a talk on Sunday at the MAG. I’ve talked about what Fred has tried to teach me many times. I am a slow learner. The talk is entitled “Comparisons of Visual Spatial Effects Utilized in Modern Painting.” That’s a mouthful but the talk is guaranteed to to be an eyeful and a headful as well. Peggi and I were lucky enough to have a brief preview and feel this will be a most rewarding experience.
This could also be a last opportunity to see the fabulous Matisse show there.
2pm Sunday June 1, Memorial Art Gallery
Free with gallery admission.
They painted the walls in our Creative Workshop room. I’m not crazy about the yellow tint but it does set the unframed drawings off. The drawings I bring to or do in Fred Lipp’s class are not done until Fred says they are done. Fred often tells the story of a student who titled his finished painting “Done.” These three were pronounced “done” last night.
Margaret Explosion plays tonight at the Little Theater.
Painting class at the Creative Workshop is over crowded this session, so much so that Maureen dropped out. But, as usually happens, some new people drop out because the whole experience is not what they expected. A visitor to the class could spot the newcomers in a flash. They’re the ones with their earbuds in as they work away. Veterans quickly learn that Fred Lipp offers the same advice to every person in the room as he wanders from student to student. And this advice needs to be heard or overheard over and over because it is always relevant to whatever it is that you’re working on. Students work in all mediums on abstracts, portraits, still lifes, landscapes or a Corn Hill cityscape in my father’s case, and all can take advantage of this advice. It is all rather Zen.
Last night a new student, a painter with an art school background, was butting heads with Fred. The spirited discussion between those two was another golden opportunity for all of us to refresh the fundamentals. Fred was pointing out two intense dark spots on her painting that were calling way too much attention to themselves. “I’m only just beginning,” she protested, “Those are my darks. This is my process.”
For Fred any process should include an orderly direction. You don’t get out ahead of yourself by throwing up obstacles and if you have created an obstacle you deal with it now. The obstacle is your next move. You proceed in a fashion that allows the work to tell you when it is done. Painting and art or life, for that matter, is an adventure not some preplanned execution of a plan.
Some days I get so bogged down making the rounds of friends’ blogs, news sites and links from my Tumblr page that there is no time left for a post here. That is as it should be. Yesterday was one of those. Who knew that Millie of “My Boy Lollipop” did such a beautiful version of “Since I Met You Baby” and that Jacke Edwards, the male voice on her early records wrote this song. I had always thought it belonged to the Tex Mex border artists like Doug Sahm and Freddy Fender. Kevin is on a roll over at So Many Records.
Louise Wareham Leonard called my attention to a Louise Gluck passage on how writing never gets any easier. I find this fascinating because I recently had a conversation with Bill Keyser, a sculptor, painter and fellow art student at the Creative Workshop. He was telling me how he worries he is getting dependent on our teacher, Fred Lipp, and he wrestles with whether he should skip class for a while. He is torn because Fred has this amazing ability to always be there at exactly the right juncture to call your attention to the next concern. Only when you are ready to see it and be in a position to do something about it. Just when you think I’ve got it, this painting is done, Fred will turn your your head around.
I found this conversation so interesting, of course, because I have been there, still am. If you’ve read Louise’s piece you might want to take a look at this post I wrote a few years ago on the Midas Touch. Like Louise Gluck says “the fantasy exists.”
I apologize for the quality of my photo of Bill Keyser’s painting, “White Intrusion,” currently on view at the Lucy Burne Gallery in the Creative Workshop of the Memorial Art Gallery. The painting deserves better.
Masterfully simple, it could be described as one color on a white ground, a positive and negative space play, but the title tells you the white is a positive and both colors could be positives. In fact there are three forms involved in this intrusion. The two colors are completely flat but the three forms are multi-dimensional. Bill Kaiser is a woodworker/sculptor/painter and a fellow student in Fred Lipp’s painting class. I find this painting very exciting.
Zanne Brunner is a former art teacher. She runs the I-Square Gallery and she has asked me and the five other artists in the current “Sight & Sounds 2” show to do an artist’s talk tonight. Art educators like that sort of thing and often the back story is more interesting than the work. I couldn’t decide whether to just wing it or prepare for it. Winging it would be easier but I would surely say something stupid so I’ve decided to collect a few notes.
Why? I’ve been painting and drawing these characters for a long time and I’ve noticed most people look at my work and quickly avert their eyes. The faces could be a lot more compelling for one thing but for most it is simply not a pleasant experience. Others, like Pete Monacelli, spend a lot of time trying to figure out why I paint these guys and I would guess he has spent more time thinking about this than I have.
I started this project by trying to capture the expression in the mugshots (reference for the human condition) from the local paper, a lifelong academic exercise, but lately I start with the source material and then leave it behind as I try to mold the figure with a more dynamic presence. I could point to a few examples in the show. Better to have a dialog with them. Where is this all leading? Here is a music analogy since we are all musicians. I have listened to Peggi Fournier create beautiful melodies on the spot for a long time. Pure creation!
I continue to take a Wednesday night painting class with Fred Lipp and he has helped me immeasurably.
How many times over the last few years have I heard Fred Lipp say those words? “Let your eye be your guide.” In other words, “Don’t think.”
I still go around in circles as I look for a solution to compositional problems but I am increasing finding the answers not in the source or in logic but in my eye. I am thrilled to report that I’m learning to trust my eye because I’m finding it works. When I see it I know that this is my solution. But I have to let my eye see it before I think about it.
I’ve been drawing from the same sources for the last few years, a bunch of mugshots from a Chicago paper. I’d rather use the local Crimestopper models but they’ve reduced the size of their photos both in the newspaper and on their website so I found twenty Chicago mugshots online. I’ve drawn each of them four or five times but increasingly I find myself working away without the source and when I go through the stack to refer back to the one I used I can’t find one that looks like drawing. I find this very exiting.
Almost November and we’re still harvesting tomatoes, red peppers, jalapeños, eggplant and spinach. We came back from the garden with two bags full this morning. That “cooler by the lake” thing that we have going in the Summer works in reverse during the Fall so we’ve managed to miss the hard frosts. I’m looking for an eggplant recipe in a separate window and will report back.
I love the idea of an “art bank” or I should say my idea of what an art bank could be since I have no idea what this place is all about. We had dinner at El Rincón in Sodus and spotted this sign on the main drag. I looked it up online and found remnants of a collective that fell apart years ago and has since let their domain name expire.
I’m thinking of a place where art truths and treasures are stored and protected. Last night in painting class Fred Lipp told Peggi “You can take that to the bank.” He was on a familiar roll, the one where he convinces you to trust your eye and not your mind (or the plan you started with). You trust your eye when things are right on. You just know before thinking about it, and when there is something wrong, as in “I’m not sure about this passage… is there something wrong with it?” For that there is this truth: “If the question comes up, the answer is yes.” Every town should have an establishment that protects these foundations.
Fred Lipp brought three framed copies of Matisse drawings in to our art class this week and set them on my work table. He called them really fine examples of minimal maximal drawings. Matisse is indeed the master. With deceptively simple line drawings he creates an immense amount of volume along with expression.
These three self portraits demonstrate Matisse’s understanding of Cezanne’s use of space and all carry on from “The Watchmaker“. His understanding of these principles allows him to knock you out with amazing composition. The forms not only occupy the space they animate the space and the environment animates the form. They are close to sculptural. You can almost encircle the figure with your gaze.
Some painting students at the Creative Workshop are lifers. Like prisoners who exercise at different times during the day we don’t get to interact with people in the other classes. But when the the staff hangs a show in the Lucy Burne Gallery we acknowledge the common bond we all share, the struggle to more clearly express our visual take on the world. Rose Mary Hooper, in the day class, always knocks me out.
Last night in class I made just a few marks on a piece of paper. When the class officially started (the moment Fred Lipp enters the room) I became entangled in a confrontation with Cezanne’s “The Watchmaker.” Fred wanted me to study it because it demonstrates Cezannes power to animate a sitter. He does so by advancing the right side of the painting while the left side recedes. The eyes lead the way but the whole right side of the body follows. The slant in the wall, downward to the lower right accentuates the twist and convincingly opens the space around the sitter.
My task is to look for clues in the essentially straight on, dead pan mug shots, clues that convey a movement, an expression and use these clues in the structure as tools to bring more life to my subjects. It all seems so obvious but I couldn’t see it until I digested it and I spent the whole class trying to do so.