I was fortunate to study in the studio of William (Bill) Schultz, on and off, for more than 30 years. Bill was a very special teacher and perhaps more importantly for my students is the fact that we can trace the method he taught, from student to teacher, directly to the French Impressionists. Bill’s primary teacher was Robert Brackman who studied with both Robert Henri and Ivan Olinsky. Henri was a distant cousin of Mary Cassatt and although he was an American, he studied in Paris during the 1880s when Impressionism was becoming all the rage, as it were. Olinsky, on the other hand, was a student of John Singer Sargent who, in turn, worked alongside Monet. Sargent was invited to participate in the Impressionist exhibitions but declined. The point being, that the method of painting that I pass along to my students is solid and comprehensive or, as the English would say, it is a “proper” method indeed.
That its origins are Paris circa the time of the Impressionist adds a wonderful philosophical dimension to the process of painting. The point of Impressionism is never to “paint like…” nor is it merely a set of techniques that the contemporary artist can readily pick up. The “mechanics” of painting or set of techniques are driven by what one believes painting is all about. For the Impressionists, it was not about making a picture but rather about how to “reveal” oneself. That is, it is about the pleasure each of us has by seeing, by looking or, as I like to say, “tasting with our eyes.” The point is not to make a picture, but to get a thrill and to grow and to become more of who we already are.
I teach the philosophy as well as the mechanics, and the beauty of it is is that each of us has a gift, the gift not just to create a painting, but by virtue of creating a painting each of us create ourselves. We discover our powers, our abilities as we reveal ourselves to others. The whole thing is driven by pleasure. We break the painting process down into stages where each stage invites us to see a different aspect of the subject. The process itself produces the work. It is a wonderful method. It suggests that art is, indeed, as Henri has noted, the province of every human being. It doesn’t matter if you have ever painted or picked up a brush. It matters that you are willing to let go, and to discover, and to reveal who you are to the rest of us. Show us what moves you so that we, too, can be moved by what you see and who you are.