Here’s my tribute to three wonderful teachers. These are three among many, some who were less than inspired or even kind, but they all made an impression on me.
One school morning years ago I asked my third grade son how he liked his teacher, Mrs. Williams. He didn’t stop drinking his orange juice, just gave me a thumbs up! Here’s a thumbs up to all teachers, and here’s to a great school year full of learning and fun.
Mrs. Brilliant--that was really her name--Mrs. Brilliant, my tenth grade Algebra teacher. I was a terrible math student until I was forced to stay after school for extra help. Standing at the blackboard I suddenly seemed to be right handed, all became clear and I could do that stuff!
I’ll never forget taking the next test--as I worked on the 10 point bonus question Mrs. Brilliant came by and looked over my shoulder. When she saw that I had gotten it right her face absolutely lit up with joy. That look has stayed with me all these years as a reminder of how important it is to find the right work, to give it your all and to reap the rewards of a job well done. Now that’s a teacher.
Roberto DeLaMonica taught printmaking at the Art Students League. Printmaking is paradoxical; it’s terribly messy, but the point is to make a pristine product. Roberto taught us to be meticulously clean in a dirty and toxic medium.My friend who’s a retired ER physician says above all, you have to be prepared. Roberto made sure we were prepared.
I still treasure his class list--20 pages of sources, instructions and recipes. Before we could make our first print we had to scour the city for ingredients and materials--asphaltum, rosin--who ever heard of this stuff? And we had to go to the most arcane out of the way businesses, up rickety stairs to places where we had to say the pass word to get in.
Then we had a week or so of cooking--and one recipe said; do not let this come to the boil--it will explode. Only then could we begin.
Brazilian born, Roberto gave his excellent English a spicy twist.
When a student complained about the mess he said, “Make dirty your hands!”
But you had to keep your paper clean!
He said; “What’s that word--when you make messy the paper?”
Roberto; “Yes--Never careless your paper.”
I have been careful not to careless my paper ever since.
but my favorite Roberto-ism is--”When you have a free hour or even a minute--get to work--use your time to work--it’s money in the bank!”
Robert Beverly Hale taught anatomy for artists at the Art Students League. His anatomy lectures, each on a different part of the body, but ranging all over creation, were legendary; he spoke in an elegant mid-Atlantic accent all the while making exquisite anatomical drawings without looking at them.
I could go on writing about Mr. Hale, but I could never do it as eloquently as Phillip Hamburger did in a profile published in the June 13, 1977 issue of the New Yorker. You can find that piece in the New Yorker Archives, but I have something even better for you.
In 2001, the year of Hale’s centennial, the Art Students League celebrated his gifts with an exhibit of his work and the work of his students, and a booklet with a reprint of the New Yorker profile. On the cover is a portrait of Hale by Daniel Greene and inside are photographs and a copy of his poem “The Big Nasturtiums”.
I have several copies of this wonderful little book and will send one to you if you go to the contact page of my website and send me your postal address, which I promise not to use for any commercial or nefarious purposes.