biography: arts students league, new york

In 1980, at the age of 20, I attended the Arts Students League of New York with tremendous enthusiasm.

The League was an inspiring atmosphere, full of talented, motivated, eccentric artists. I was fortunate to have studied with some of their oldest professionals before they passed on. Robert Beverly Hale (1901–1985) and Thomas Fogarty Jr. (1916–1989) taught the traditional fundamentals of figure drawing and anatomy. Isaac Soyer (1902–1981), imparted to me a gentle sensitivity for figurative composition. Robert Philipp (1895-1981) showed me deep passion, spirit and energy for painting. All my instructors were at the end of their lives especially Phillip and Soyer who died the year I studied. What I got from all of them was the deeper emotional connection to life through art, the spirit of the artist, more so than the strictly technical.

"I'll never forget Robert Phillipp, as he chomped on his cigar in the turpentine-laden air... He'd step up to the canvas with a confident bravado like no other...his brush loaded with paint, laying it on thick, as the fresh juicy paint melted into the canvas."

I was prepared to put in some years at the League. I drew the figure intensively, taking night workshops after a whole day of drawing and painting classes. But I soon became frustrated with my progress. It became obvious that I couldn't understand the human figure by looking at its surface and by navigating the anatomy with two dimensional charts. Adding line, light and shadow to describe something I could not see or understand began to feel like too much guesswork.

I began searching other avenues. I found myself in the basement library reading about how Michelangelo risked his life to illegally dissect cadavers on his quest to find answers about human anatomy and how he applied that to his drawing and sculpture. It seemed logical to me that if I were to understand anatomy, I would have to start with its foundation, the skeleton. So I bought a human skeleton (when you still could) and decided I would commit the bones to memory as a first step.