Looking Back

Thanks again for asking about my painting, for it led me to look at the website I threw together a couple years ago, hoping it might answer that question, which gets asked often, and to which I have never found an adequate or appropriate answer. Now with the passage of time, and looking back over it I think that perhaps it might be worthwhile to try to explain some of the passages, and some of the people who  were instrumental in my development as an artist.  There are people whose picture I would like to include in the scrapbook  page, but I do not have a picture to put in.  One of the first missing would be Cap’n Carl Bjork, the Swedish dock master in Portuguese Bend, California, when I was growing up, who showed me so much about the sea, and gave me my first notions about drawing.  He  was one of my first important teachers and mentors. With the ocean it began and ends for me. Another would be Mr. Fred Halverson of Menlo High School, who turned on the light in the room of ideas and literature for me, followed by Dr. Paul Hadley of the University of Southern California, my Department Head in my studies in Comparative Literature. These three people opened the door to the wonders of life and the challenge of communicating them. I have no photographs of any of those gentlemen.

      Leo Marchutz, Saul Marks, and Oskar Kokoschka were my teachers in the world of art, once I gave up the idea of being a writer and accepted to become a painter. I spent 15 years as an apprentice and associate of Leo Marchutz. He so freely passed on the lessons of art, form, the spiritual, the search for “that which does not pass in that which passes”, and so much more. Saul Marks the gentle quiet soul from the venerated Plantin Press in Los Angeles, gave so much so freely and so humbly in the ‘Art of the Book’ at the University of Southern California. He also chaired my masters committee. And finally Oskar Kokoschka, whose vision and exuberance inspired me in so many directions, and who, by awarding me the City of Salzburgh, Oskar Kokoschka Prize in his School of Seeing at the International Sommerakademie fur Bildende Kunst in Salzburgh, Austria, gave me the courage to believe in myself enough to commit to a life as an artist. I guess you would call it the first glimmer of recognition. Jameson Dean Jones whom I met in the early days of the Marchutz School (He was a trustee) and whose friendship and association opened my eyes and mind to so many new horizons. A true spirit, Jameson. These men were vehicles, none of them taking credit for what they so freely passed on.
     Life is about learning, and many of the people on the ‘scrapbook’ pages are people who were teachers, influences, and support in important ways. Again many are missing, but would be there if I had photographs. There are my colleagues at the school in France. First of all William ‘‘Billy’ Weyman, whom I first met in 1963 when he too came back to Aix en Provence to study with Leo Marchutz, and who has been not only the best friend a man could have, but a mentor and teacher to this day. Together with Leo we founded the Mauchutz School which, I am happy to say, is still going strong *. Francois de Asis, another student/apprentice of Leo’s whose association with the school since its beginning has been fundamental, and whose friendship as a fellow painter has inspired me over the years, and still does. My house if full of his paintings, and my paintings are full of his influence, as I believe are his paintings of my influence. We had many years of inspiring each other.
    My students have taught me much over the years, and in many cases been invaluable friends. Two are the ‘city boys’ Christopher Coffey and Alan Roberts. Painters and friends. Alan, a student from our second year, is still running the Marchutz School some 30 years later. Missing is John Gasparach, the other ex-student who was able to take over the school with Alan and keep the teachings of Leo alive all these years. A man of incredible wisdom. Actually he and his wife Michele are on the left in the photograph of the Dinner in Tholonet ’09. Jill Steenhuis and her husband Sergio are in that same photo as well. They now work the old litho hand press I got from Leo, and continue to exhibit their paintings, prints and sculptures. Others, not pictured (and I will surely leave out some - memory fading), would be Ben Haggard, Gail Haggard, Susan Crapo, Mary Wallman, Cole Carothers, Jim Toub, Elizabeth Ivers, Jan and Linton Weeks, who, while not pictured, are present in the ‘portrait’ page. There is much to learn from seeing reflected back that which one attempts to pass on.
    My too patient first wife, mother of my two oldest children, who was for many years my main supporter. She is identified in many of the works as AJB. She was also a patient model. Her mother, the saintly ‘Hoshie’ who brought so much love and warmth, and to whom I owe much of my love for the earth, and to whom I owe my first reading of Rachel Carson’s The Silent Spring. My present wife, another staunch supporter and patient model, identified in these pages as Coco. Three blessings the good Lord sent me whether I deserved it or not.
     Having children, being a good parent, is an enormous undertaking. I have tried to grow to the challenge. I have been blessed with three beautiful children- their pictures are here. Without them it would not have been a life. They are the greatest gifts a man could ever hope for. I am grateful.
     Recovery from the disease of addiction has been the largest single contributing factor in my path as a human being on this earth. You cannot find your way when you are running away, which is what addiction is. Facing life and the present is the most beautiful and inspiring challenge one can face. Accepting it is opening the door to Grace and Peace and Serenity. These have become mine increasingly over these last 19 years. To all who have so freely shared and given of what they have received, be it in the visual arts or the art of living I am grateful. The only measure of success can be if I have been able to pass something of a vision of the world or life to another human being. We are truly one. You are either in the circle or out as Chuck C. says, or on the bus or off the bus as Ken Kesey said. In this paragraph only Frank is pictured, but Eileen Ross, Steve Moore, and John Fitzgerald, and Dr. Randall Green would be if I had a picture to put in.
     To touch on the sources to which I have turned over the years to learn my craft will perhaps make clear to some a sense of the disparate images posted here. I learned early on to seek in the tradition of art - that which unifies the vision of one artist and another - not what separates them. The common thread. That which ‘does not pass in that which passes’. Early archaic Egyptian and Christian works, the caves of Lascaux, Romanesque sculpture, the paintings of Pompeii, all rich sources of inspiration. In more modern times, the vision of Giotto, Carpaccio, Pisanello, Titien, Francisco Guardi, Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Bruegel, Velasquez, Goya, Turner, Constable, Delacroix, Corot, and the French Impressionists, and Van Gogh and Cezanne. Not to leave out Renoir’s sketches after he saw the paintings of Pompey. I have surely omitted many. I have looked at and loved much of the art of Asia. Notably Hokusai and Utamaro.  I have studied and copied from all these artists at one point or other, looking always for what they had in common, not what separates them. Almost without exception their works were conceived from the inside out, surely because their vision was insightful. Finally I have looked at more modern works, but do not want to get involved in a polemic about modern art. I took from sources wherein I saw what I wanted.  The ‘primitives’ at Lascaux and Pompey were modern, as were all the artists mentioned above. I was looking for what I could use to learn better to speak the language of Art. ​

*(William Weyman has just published a book entitled "Leo and I and the Ghost of  Cezanne - A Memory of Art and Provence" which tells the story of the genesis of the Marchutz School and traces those years leading up to it's founding. It is available on Amazon.)

"If you are drawn to an enlightened teacher, it is because there is already enough presence in you to recognize presence in another"

                                Eckhart Tolle: The Power of Now

".....The inner teacher, who has been with us always, manifests in the form of the 'outer teacher', who, almost as if by magic, we actually encounter. This is the most important encounter of any lifetime

                          Sogyal Rimpoche: Glimpse after Glimpse