John and Amber in the studio. Photo by Ashlee Welz Smith
John Greenwald, painter and colleague, died yesterday. He worked across the hall from me at Western Avenue Studios. He always had a smile, a critique, an opinion, a welcoming hand to share. I miss him so much.
Here is his own description of how he got started. To enjoy his rich, energetic work, visit his website, please.
I drew my first nude as a 16-year-old high schooler in New York City in 1959. A classmate took a small group of us to open life drawing at the famous Art Students League in Manhattan. There, for less than a dollar, we drew the figure for two hours with a few dozen other artists.
I had never seen a live nude model before, but after a minute or so of trepidation, I began to draw. And immediately I was hooked. There was something about the abstract beauty of the figure — plus the model's inherent humanness, sensuality and personality — that I wanted to capture.
In time, I saw the figure as a template for experiments in color, expression, abstraction and playfulness. That's where I am now, using the figure to explore a wide visual vocabulary. People have called me an abstract painter, an expressionist, a fauve, a colorist and Matisse-like. Who knows?
Some of the artists where I have my studio, in Western Avenue Studios in Lowell, Mass., wonder why I use different models. “All his models look alike,” they say. But I need models. They are my collaborators, whose style and personalities influence my paintings as much as their torsos, limbs and faces.