Saturday, October 25

This is from the beautiful funeral of my teacher, Louis B. Sloan, who died last week. It was amazing to hear his family and other friends testifying as to his rare character and the huge impact he made on their lives. He was such a wonderful guy. I was too shy to seek out a mentor among my teachers when I was a student, but Lou often reached out the hand of kindness and encouragement to me in a way very few of my other teachers did. It's a difficult business, being an artist, and learning to be an artist is also fraught with peril. People who go out of their way to be kind and helpful appear in memory like angels of light. Such was Lou!

I transferred to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) after a semester at another local art school. At that first place, I asked my painting teacher to show me how to set up my palette and he looked at me and said "Just FEEL where you think the paint should go, m'dear. No need to get too technical." Same for stretching canvases. "Oh just buy them ready-made. We are artists, not artisans!" After less than one month of this gruesome regime I'd had enough, and I secretly sent for an application to PAFA.

Lou was my very first teacher, on my very first day of classes at PAFA and thank heaven for that! Maybe I imprinted on him or something. But he was such a godsend! This was a still-life painting class (landscape came later) and when I confessed very little prior experience of oil painting he calmly took me under his wing, showed me how to set up my palette and clean my brushes and how to stretch and prime a canvas. He recommended books, and places to buy art supplies. And showed me how to accomplish dozens of other such small but important things. He also cheered me on and encouraged me, in his gentle way. I will be forever grateful to him.

My first class with Lou was that still-life painting class, and only a few months ago I myself started teaching a still-life class. It feels like some part of his spirit is with me, or within me, as I teach. Thank you dear Lou!

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