This evening as I walked down the road in to my local fruit stand in the dark, picking my way through the sludge of mud leftover from recent Cairo rains, my eyes misted. Clyde, a teacher who made a profound impression, is moving on to other worlds. He was tough. The toughest teacher I have ever had. I earned my first “C” for a careless figure drawing, a woman tipping forward into space, unbalanced. Through his tutelage, I learned to draw from memory, to draw from my gut, to find movement on the page, to articulate nuanced poses, to highlight brevity, and to slash through the page with grit, tears and angst, only to find repose as works wound their way to conclusion. Like squeezing water from a stone, poetry was found by digging through the drawn repetition of countless, mundane paper sand bags. “The weight of the sand, the restraint of the tape, the release of the paper’s edge.”
One afternoon, early in the fall, he invited myself, Liam and the two Seans to his garage, where we cracked into abstract artworks and dipped our brushes into molten wax, a formative afternoon in my young love of abstraction. He shared images of his favorite artworks, Motherwell and Rauschenberg, Kahlo and Rothko – part of a continued lesson to cultivate an acknowledgment of other artists, as holy as the artistic process itself.
I had more than one meltdown in our critiques, where I eventually found my voice and learned to step outside of my nervously high-pitched tones. To continue your traditions, Clyde, I teach gesture drawing by launching cups of water into the air, throwing sponges to waft daftly to the ground, and sending marbles to bounce their way through the eternity of scribbled lines on paper! One might think a Drawing teacher primarily teaches you to see, which Clyde did; more importantly, he taught me how to move through the world, as a gesture and a life-force, with strength, with grace, and with a bit of grit.
Post-script: Written in honor of the legendary Clyde Fowler, beloved teacher of many at UNCSA from 1975-2005, who passed away on Monday, February 1, 2016. He lives on in the hands, minds, and hearts of the many makers he nurtured during the vulnerable time of awakening through art.