At The Cincinnati Art Club
From earliest youth I had aspired to serious, full-time oil painting, specifically portrait painting like Sargent, but could not because my profession of medicine demanded, I felt, priority and full immersion. Painting would have to wait. But I started preparing for the transition long before retirement, scheduled for 1994.
In the August 1989 issue of The American Artist, which I had subscribed to longer than the New England Journal of Medicine, I happened across an article about a Cincinnati artist, Floyd Berg, and how important he felt the Cincinnati Art Club, especially the live-model sketch sessions, had been to his career. It would be crucial in mine.
Founded in 1890, the CAC is one of the oldest art clubs in the nation. It was for the sketch sessions with live models, not the social art-clubbiness and monthly dinners, that I was willing, eager to drive, every Monday afternoon, from Dayton (then home) to Cincinnati, an hour each way.
The CAC offers two live model sessions, Monday afternoon and Tuesdy evenings. The evening session is for the younger, active, famous, practicing portraitists, like Carl Samson, busy all day in their own studios painting hi-fee portraits of the governor or the conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Monday afternoon turns out to be for retirees, like me, who need to get to bed early. Most of those I came to know had been art-school trained professional artists with careers in teaching art at reform schools, comic strip lettering, or illustrating greeting cards or newspaper fashion ads. At last among kindred arty souls, and garbed in a paint-smeared rather than blood-spattered gown, and breathing in the lovely smell of linseed oil and real turpentine, I stood forthrightly and exultingly at an easel, awkward to do at the hospital Tumor or Executive Board, my normal milieu.
Eagerly, almost childishly, I attacked the canvas like Sargent shouting “demons!,” with the broadest brushes, preferably bristle brights, in bravura, kinetic, whaling strokes, to the bemusement and alarm of my easel-mates, probably muttering “show off!” under their breath. I could finish an oil portrait sketch in 45 minutes and be out the door by the second break. The slideshow that follows demonstrates some of those quickie CAC sketches.
I joined in 1995. For the first decade I never missed a session. Then, on April 6, 2007 (aged 78), halfway to Cincinnati, I became too tired, or something, to continue, pulled into an Odd Lots parking lot in Lebanon, turned around, drove back home, ending one of the happiest – and most productive -- periods in my life..
Now – show time!
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