KCAI Alumni Blog

Just another KCAI Blogs weblog


Memories from Judy (Harris) Bales (’77 painting/printmaking)

@ September 19, 2010

Give us three words you would use to describe your time at the Art Institute (and why): Nurturing, Expanding, Utopia

By attending KCAI, I was able to live and work in an environment that encouraged development of what talent I had while exposing me to other media I had never used before.

The professor or course that most affected your work (and why):

Marvin Jones, Printmaking

I was majoring in Painting and had to take an elective in printmaking to round out my art experience. I had many good teachers in the different printmaking processes, but Marvin not only taught me to strive for excellence in my work, but also to have fun with it. His work was so clever and beautifully crafted. He helped me learn how to visually express ideas and values important to me.

The best class or project you ever participated in:

I also took a Dissection Drawing class one summer with Michael Meyers. Very demanding and detail oriented, but very fun…

The course was the most challenging and why:

Foundations was pretty challenging for me, especially when we had to physically perform in some manner…

like become bacon sizzling on a griddle….???

One lesson that you learned at KCAI that still guides your career:

Keep making art.

Tell us which classmates were your best friends and how you’ve kept in touch since college:

This doesn’t answer the question, but I married into a pretty creative family, and my brother-in-law, David Bales and nephew, Jeff Bales are also alumni, which I recently remembered.

Favorite hang-out on-campus:

Printmaking – loved that aroma of ink.


Memories from Robert Blunk (’49 painting)

@

Give us three words you would use to describe your time at the Art Institute (and why) :

Post WW2 Chaos/returning GIs/ enlightening,life career.

The professor or course that most affected your work (and why):

Miron Sokole/Painting class.     I began to see color.   I first “met”

Marsden Hartley at the Nelson.     Sokole was a Russian with a Jewish

background and he was usually smoking a pipe.    He taught us that a clean

brush is a first step and he spent a considerable time showing us a proper way to clean a brush.

Also always telling you to “push the color”, set up vibrations…

The most important thing a faculty member ever said to you and under what circumstances it was said:

Nothing specific comes to mind but there was an openness and “let us look at

this awhile” attitude.    Mary Fife, Edward Laning’s wife, taught a drawing

class and she would look over your shoulder and make a check mark if she

wanted you to save a drawing for an exhibit.    That was like a Papal

Blessing.

The best class or project you ever participated in:

I think the Friday Critiques were very important and we would bring in the

week’s work and have great discussions.   We would have coffee breaks at a

little restaurant a few blocks North of the Art Institute and we thought we were in “The Night Cafe” with Van Gogh and Gauguin.

The course was the most challenging and why:

I think the painting classes under Sokole were the most important of my KCAI

years.   I found a confidence and acceptance by my colleagues in what I was

doing.

One lesson that you learned at KCAI that still guides your career:

I am 86 years and I still feel as if my creativity is still there or I may be

completely senile and in the last stages of Alzheimers.    I think I still

think critically and I am still searching and looking for the next “blank canvas” and wake up in the morning looking towards a new day.

Tell us which classmates were your best friends and how you’ve kept in touch since college:

I think I have outlived a lot of them.    I think Tom Jennison is still among

us and wife, Betty and they met at the Art Institute… We used to play

bridge outside of the “auditorium” on the landing.    I forget the name of

that large room but I remember that at one time there would be three life

drawing classes going at once.    I also remember that there was a mother and

a daughter posing for different classes at the same time.

Your college sweetheart:

I was recently married when I enrolled in KCAI so my “college sweetheart”

happened earlier.   My wife worked at Skelly Oil on the Plaza while I was at

KCAI.

Favorite hang-out on-campus:

I don’t remember any “coffee shop” but we did congregate on the “landing”

outside of Epperson Hall(?)    I don’t even remember a “Coke Machine”

The craziest thing you did while at KCAI:

I think the general “wildness” associated with an art school was somewhat

tempered by the number of returning GIs.    We were pretty serious and we

were a bit older than the general student population.

The funniest experience at KCAI :

I remember a new male model with a heavy accent not wearing the customary “jock-strap” , when the teacher asked him to pose.

Tell us about the moment that you truly knew that you were an

artist/designer:

I had a boyhood friend that was the class artist (third grade)and could draw

horses from any angle and I always thought that you were born an artist.

After a first semester at KCAI I realized that I had an ability and mostly I

needed to cultivate it.    Subtle encouragement from teachers and colleagues

helped.

One moment here at KCAI that you will remember for the rest of your life:

Nothing monumental but the Director at the time was Wallace Rosenbauer(sp?) called me into his office and told me a lady wanted to buy a painting that I

had in an exhibit.    It was of a ballet dancer seated in front of her mirror

with much tutu all about her.    As she was looking into the mirror I did not

have to paint a face so that was a plus.     I don’t remember the price but

it was probably $25…

The hardest lesson:

I don’t remember having any real problems and I enjoyed all of my

teachers…Not one SOB in the bunch.    I think I grew up in the service

(three years)and I was ready to take on the world.

Other special memories:

We bought our art supplies from the basement art store which was run by a Max

Morris and Keith Coldsnow.    Max had a family and his wife and two little

girls were often around running in the basement hallways.    Years later my

nephew Jim Blackwood married Donna Morris.    Sadly, Jim died recently in KC.

Donna and I have kept in touch and will continue to do that.

One last mention:    One of my drawing teachers was Miron Sokole’s wife and I

think she wrote the lyrics to a popular 1940s song…”Three Widdle Fiddies”.

That is, Three Little Fishies, in a child vernacular.


Memories from John Olsen (’65 sculpture)

@

Give us three words you would use to describe your time at the Art Institute (and why) :

Expensive: It cost over $700 a year. The Junior College I started at only cost $180 Exciting:I had never been on my own before.

Educational: I had to sleep in a room with Ralph and Cindy.

The professor or course that most affected your work (and why):

Eldred: Dale changed my life and our friendship continued for many years.

The most important thing a faculty member ever said to you and under what circumstances it was said:

It was not what they said, it was what they did. They all made great art and their art spoke for them.

The best class or project you ever participated in:

1.Sculpture 2.Painting 3.Industural Design I enjoyed them all in that order.

The course was the most challenging and why:

Sculpture: We made a lot of mistakes. Burnouts were never hot or long enough.

Molds blew up once in a while. Now thats a challenge.

One lesson that you learned at KCAI that still guides your career:

It is not what you think; it is not what you say;it is what you do that counts.

Tell us which classmates were your best friends and how you’ve kept in touch since college:

Steve Dubov, Zolton Popovits, Carl Floyd,Carl Ponca, Reilly Rhodes,Jim Enyeart and many more.  Unfortunately I have not kept in touch.

Your college sweetheart:

Jane, I married her while still at KCAI. While at Tulane we had two children.

And two years later had another one. That may help to explain why I have not kept up with my college friends.

Favorite hang-out on-campus:

Sculpture studio. We always worked late into the night.

The craziest thing you did while at KCAI:

My roommate (who shall remain anonymous because I am not sure what the statures of limitations are in Missouri) and I needed canvas for a painting to decorate our new apartment. My roommate knew that the music conservatory had some old stage props that they were not using. As we started over that night to appropriate one, it started to snow. We continued, thinking that it would give us cover. After the appropriation, as we approached our doorsteps, we realized what idiots we were. We had left a trail in the fresh snow that led from the conservatory to the door of our apartment. We spent the rest of the night running around in the snow trying to cover our trail.

The funniest experience at KCAI :

The house painting and goat roast at Stan Edmister’s. And, listening to Bob Dylan’s first album at Danny Christensen’s house.

Tell us about the moment that you truly knew that you were an

artist/designer:

While at the Art Institute I entered one of my sculptures in a show at the Springfield, MO. Art Museum. It was accepted. I was accepted.

One moment here at KCAI that you will remember for the rest of your life:

While cleaning out the attic of the old painting studio building I found a Jackson Pollock drawing. Bill Paul would not let me keep it. I hope KCAI still has it.

The hardest lesson:

The life of art is in the struggle. When the struggle ends art dies.

Other special memories:

At the Beau Arts Ball in 1964, I dressed as a soldier using “war toys” I found in the toy stores. Jane dressed as a “Peace-nic” and carried a sign saying “Band the Bomb”. We won a best costume prize. Little did we know then that the Viet Nam War was just around the corner.


Memories from Robert Stillwell (’51 sculpture)

@ April 14, 2010

I have many fond memories of KCAI, especially my sculpture instructor Clark Winter. I am now 85 and still painting and sculpting. I was a friend of Robert Rauchenburg’s while we were students at KCAI.


Memories from Gary A. Yarrington (’58 sculpture)

@

After two years in the U.S. army and one year at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia, I returned in 1957 to the KCAI.

My objective was to learn metal casting, particularly bronze. I did learn, and the knowledge served me well, and still does. As a sculpture major, I discovered that creating three dimensional art was complicated and required dedicated time and energy. From this experience I found I could take on large projects and see them through to completion. It was a valuable lesson for my future.

After graduating in 1959 with a MFA degree, I entered the museum profession. I eventually became curator of the museum for the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. (Retired for 27 years). In this capacity I selected and did research on subjects of American history and designed the gallery space. These were large, complicated, three dimensional installations and I had the confidence it could be done.

I owe KCAI a lot. My memories were all good.  Also, I never stopped making sculpture. You can see my work on my website www.artbyyarrington.com

I want my $1,000 contribution to go toward scholarships. My last two years in school I was on the G.I. Bill and a full tuition merit scholarship from KCAI. It helped me immensely.


Memories from Sarah Biondo (’67 sculpture)

@

What professor or course most affected your work and why?

The lesson I learned from James Leedy were perseverance and determination as his life clearly demonstrates. Leedy would constantly tell us, over coffee in the cafeteria, “When you have enough gallery rejections to wallpaper a room, then and only then will you begin to become an artist.”

At the 1967 Graduation Ceremony, President Andrew Morgan said, “There will always be those who are making the scene in the name of art, while others are behind the scene making the art.” That particularly because a few of us in sculpture were working in the studio before the ceremony and were back to the studio to finish our work after the ceremony.


Memories from Lance Grabowski (’71 printmaking)

@

When I arrived at KCAI I really didn’t know where I was headed in life. But on a trip in my freshman year, I found my direction.

Junior year I transferred from sculpture to painting under Ron Slowinski. I think my move had a large impact on each me.

My Senior year I was deeply involved with what was to be my life. I stopped painting on canvas and started working with fur, leather, rawhide, fire, beads, feathers, paint, etc. My studio space was ordered nailed shut by Wilber Niewald when a visitor from the goolyn [?] came to see student work. One day as I tried to shrink rawhide to make a buffalo shield, Stan Lewis came out and gave me a heart to heart. The bottom line of which was; wouldn’t you be happier at another school. I don’t believe we had ever spoken before, nor since.

When absolutely not excuse for missing studio was acceptable, I proudly hold the distinction of being the only one asked to work at home.

My drawings, paintings, and making of historic items were apparently against the then acceptable standard of art.

Lester Goldman looked over my drawings and told me something like; you can’t draw this stuff. No one buys this stuff. It doesn’t exist, you can’t make up cowboy and Indians as art.

Oddly 5 years later I was working with men internationally famous, and some of the highest paid American artists. They were painting and sculpting cowboys and Indians.

Despite the negative feedback from some, I had instructors and students that encouraged me. My memories aren’t negative, and in my last semester I took an art history class from Michael Cadieux. This on eclass changed my life. I had to give a class lecture about my work, who and what influenced me, and project where I was going. I had never done anything like this. My talk filled the required time. When I asked for questions, the class kept me for two more hours. I n the first time in my life I realized I had something to offer and people did want to listen.

That was 1971. 39 years later I’m still doing what I started at KCAI. I’ve had a very successful career as a Mountain Man. My work is in numerous museums. My work has also been used in many movies and TV shows. I and my work have been in many major galleries, magazines, book covers, calendars, and art collections. I have modeled for, sold props and costuming to, and provided historical consultation to most of the major western artist for over 36 years.

The point of my story isn’t anger, but that I knew what I wanted and went undeterred for it. Fortunately, KCAI had a class and instructor who allowed me to see my potential and isn’t that what college is supposed to do?


Memories from Carol Krick (’85 printmaking)

@

Give us three words you would use to describe your time at the Art Institute (and why) :

  • challenging
  • inspiring
  • fulfilling

The professor or course that most affected your work (and why):

Other special memories:

My Instructor, My Master, Bill McKim

I was fortunate to have been taught by this man who was personally instructed by Thomas Hart Benton under a respectable tradition of fundamental art training.

William Wind McKim (1940 KCAI graduate) was a master in his own right, appearing in Who’s Who of American Art (1940), with representation from New York galleries obtained when Benton took several of his student works to exhibit.  Prof. McKim learned the original technique of stone lithography as practiced by the workshops of Currier & Ives, and he received recognition nation-wide for his litho prints.  Under his methodical tutelage, I also learned the old print technique done on valuable limestone blocks from Bavaria that had to be ground to an even smoothness before a drawing could be applied.  Then, followed the delicate etching process, and afterwards, the reproduction of the prints themselves, individually pulled from archaic printers which were over a hundred years old.  (Sadly, this practice has faded only to memory even though I still have retained my original, detailed notes on the printmaking process and all my student prints).

However, the lasting gift he gave to me was a firm foundation of classical, “free-hand” drawing, passing on its almost-secretive knowledge and seeming magic in the time-honored manner of master to student.  We established a friendship based on a willingness for us both to successfully arrive at the achievement – all his learning and wisdom was to be purposed in

me (and in another fellow classmate, Mitch Bolander) as his last protégé.

He was to retire, after all, in the same year that I was to graduate.  Thus, during the two and a half years, I received intensive guidance from this master who believed in my God-given talent (he disagreed with the modern-day adage that “everyone is an artist”).

He began me with relentless action sketches and gradually had me evolve to more finished drawings using a variety of live models from which to sketch; Rubens, Ingres, and Raphael were his favorite artists and I studied and copied their drawings from books; he encouraged me to draw from the Old Master paintings and sculptures at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (I spent most my weekends there); and I read books on drawing approved by him, namely,

Loomis’ “Figure Drawing, For All Its Worth” and Goldstein’s “The Art of Responsive Drawing”.  For me to learn more about pattern (the light and dark of a composition), he recommended that I study the lithographs of the German Expressionist artist, Kathe Kollowitz.  And he supervised my copying efforts as I carried my paints and easels to duplicate the Rembrandt and the Rubens modello at the museum – the accumulative highlight of my training in my senior year.  Literally, Bill McKim took me in as a fledgling and carefully guided me with persistence and patience to develop the successful artist that I am today.

After my graduation in 1985, I unfortunately did not keep in contact with him.  However, in 2006, I had the privilege to temporarily become the studio assistant to both nationally-known artists, Eric and MaryAnn Bransby

(1942/1943 KCAI graduates) who shared with me firsthand their fond memories of Benton’s classes and especially their friendship with classmate, Bill McKim.  Eric remembered well:  “Old Bill McKim was Benton’s ‘golden student’.  We all knew that.”

Indeed, I am forever indebted to Bill McKim who was a major influence in my artistic career involving my passionate pursuit to learn and understand the Old Masters.


Memories from Carol Johnson (Martinelle) (’85 printmaking)

@

What professor or course most affected your work and why?

I was fortunate to have been taught by this man who was personally instructed by Thomas Hart Benton under a respectable tradition of fundamental art training.

William Wind McKim (1940 KCAI Graduate) was a master in his own right, appearing in Who’s Who of American Art (1940), with representation from New York galleries obtained when Benton took several of his student works to exhibit. Prof. McKim learned the original technique of stone lithography as practiced by the workshops of Currier& Ives, and he received recognition nation-wide for his litho prints. Under his methodical tutelage, I also learned the old print technique done on valuable limestone blocks from Bavaria that had to be ground to an even smoothness before a drawing could be applied. Then, followed the delicate etching process, and afterwards, the reproduction of the prints themselves, individually pulled from archaic printers which were over a hundred years old. (Sadly, this practice has faded only to memory even through I still have retained my original, detailed notes on the printmaking process and all my student prints.)

However, the lasting gift he gave to me was a firm foundation of classical, “free-hand” drawing, passing on it’s almost-secretive knowledge and seeming magic in the time-honored manner of master to student. We established a friendship based on willingness for us both to successfully arrive at the achievement- all his learning and wisdom was to be purposed in me (and in another fellow classmate, Mitch Bolander) as his last protégé. He was to retire, after all, in the same year that I was to graduate. Thus, during the two and a half years, I received intensive guidance from this master who believed in my God-given talent (he disagreed with the modern-day adage that “everyone is an artist”).

He began me with relentless action sketches and gradually had me evolve to more finished drawings using a variety of live models from which to sketch; Rubens, Ingres, and Raphael were his favorite artists and I studied  and copied their drawings from books; he encouraged me to draw from the Old Masters paintings and sculptures at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (I spent most my weekends there); and I read books on drawing approved by him, namely,  Loomis’ “Figure Drawing, For All Its Worth” and Goldstein’s
“The Art of Responsive Drawing”. For me to learn more about pattern (the light and dark of a composition), he recommended that I study the lithographs of the German Expressionist artist, Kathe Kollowitz. And he supervised my copying efforts as I carried my paints and easels to duplicate the Rembrandt and the Rubens modello at the museum- the accumulative highlight of my training in my senior year. Literally, Bill McKim took me in as a fledgling and carefully guided me with persistence and patience to develop to the successful artist that I am today.

After my graduation in 1985, I unfortunately did not keep in contact with him. However, in 2006, I had the privilege to temporarily become to studio assistant to both nationally-known artists, Eric and Mary Ann Bransby (1942/1943 KCAI graduates) who shared with me firsthand their fond memories of Benton’s classes and especially their friendship with classmate, Bill McKim. Eric remembered well: “Old Bill McKim was Benton’s ‘gold student’. We all knew that.”

Indeed, I am forever indebted to Bill McKim who was a major influence in my artistic career involving my passionate pursuit to learn and understand the Old Masters.


Memories from Craig Blouin (’75 photography)

@

Lloyd Schnell kept drilling into us Photo majors that we had to be more than “dumb image makers.” In other words, it was important for us to look deeper than just the surface of what we were focusing on.


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