Monday, December 5, 2022

Education of an Artist


Alan Singer,  November, 2022 speaks of his realm as an artist
and author of this blog post

As we enter our holiday season, I like to think of my education as an artist.  I had to prepare a talk to give at MuCCC in conjunction with a show of my recent work that hangs in the theatre atrium.  As many of my readers may know I am just retired from teaching after 32 years at Rochester Institute of Technology.  Teaching is something I embraced and I can't tell you how many dreams I have had about interacting with my students, it really enriched my life and I hope I have helped their performance!

My parents Judy and Arthur Singer circa 1970

Simply put, it all comes back to my parents who were both artists having met in art school at The Cooper Union in New York City.  When I was little my father kept a studio in the attic and my mom liked to garden and paint outdoors.  My dad would take me on the subway uptown to his office in the penthouse of the Plaza Hotel where he had a partnership with Ben Sackheim to form an advertising agency.  For my father's clients he would produce illustrations that were very realistic..see an example below:

Arthur Singer illustration for an advertisement circa 1953

My mom spent some of her time illustrating books and she teamed up with Sonia Bleeker who was working in anthropology along with her husband Herbert Zim.  Later on my mom  also put her gardening experience into her art and produced the illustrations for her book called: Bulbs for the Home Gardener.

In our home there were always projects underway and my father's interest in the birds and animals that he knew from many trips to The Bronx Zoo and beyond  really paid off over a lifetime.  My father mastered the art of portraying birds and animals and made a living producing illustrations published by Golden Books ( Birds of the World, and Birds of North America being among the most notable ).  I learned a lot by watching my parents do their thing!

Arthur Singer's illustrated "Birds of the World" for Golden Books in 1960s

In writing about books and art I should mention that part of my education as an artist comes from reading art history and criticism and I have built up quite a library.  For example I just finished reading Jerry Saltz's book "Art Is Life" and you may know his writings from his work at The Village Voice, and also for New York magazine.  He writes short essays on shows he has seen and also throws in some autobiographical takes on his life and interest  in making his own artwork.  He has a closing chapter on his  meeting Jasper Johns and the impact that John's painting has had worldwide.

Jerry Saltz is a writer and critic on visual art and this is his new book!

Well I met Jasper Johns once also, and was introduced to him by my painting teacher Wolf Kahn.
Johns artwork certainly has been interesting to watch as he is a force in contemporary art and is still going strong in his 90s!

Another book comes to mind before I sign off and that is the one I just read from Peter Schjeldahl which I found very poetic and really engrossing.  Here he is writing about a variety of artists and I should also say that Peter has recently passed away from cancer...and his work as the art critic for the New Yorker will certainly be missed!

Peter Schjeldahl was critic for The New Yorker magazine and this is one of his best books!