Monday, September 7, 2009

John LaGatta at the Art Center

Anyone who has studied with John LaGatta has at least one story.
His method of instruction was strictly old school but wasn't that what you wanted at the time?
The drawing at the right is an example of his 'fine Italian hand' as he liked to call it... John was the first illustrator to crack a million dollars as his sensual drawings of the female form were much in demand by both story and fashion.  He spoke often of completing more that two drawings a day from hired models at $1800 per drawing... remember during the 20's and 30's taxes were no where to be seen.

His painting classes were always formed around a draped model lighted with  warm and cool sources for contrast on the form.  We were expected to have a prepared watercolor stretch with a gray-green half tone over the entire surface. A very careful drawing of the model in charcoal was done on tracing paper and transferred to the prepared stretch.  The medium was gouache.

Here is another example of his work exemplifying his beautiful rendering of  posterior views.  His fellow illustrators of the time affectionately referred to him as the ***man.
John had a very short fuse if he thought you were not following his instructions or "not getting it."  There was a student in one of our classes that John felt was not putting it together and ignoring him. During the break he noticed that the student had an ear piece with a lead to his breast pocket and assumed that he was hard of hearing and apologized. The student confessed that it was a radio and that he was listening to a ball game. LaGatta exploded. After the break we all had a little extra room to work in.

John would often join some of the students for coffee before classes and talk about anything and everything. He would roll a cigarette in wheat straw paper and get into some deep discussion or not depending on the day...
One morning I brought my Basset hound in to pose in one of the other classes as he was very accommodating... you could twist him into almost any position and he would remain there.  John just stared down at the dog for the longest time while rolling one of his yellow papered sigs and finally looked up at me and said "God must have been at the beach the day that this dog came into being designed. His head is too big for his body, his legs are too short, his ears are too long, his tail makes no sense..This is with out a doubt the ugliest thing I have ever seen. A design disaster."  "Sir" I replied, "You are defaming the dog I love"..

Here is a drawing by Laura Edwards of Sweetwater and myself done I believe with a sharpened popsicle stick, India ink and wash for one of the night classes.

The original Sweetwater circa '61

1 comment:

  1. Interesting stories! How did LaGatta actually teach drawing -- would he comment on each student's work, describe his methods, or draw corrections over a student's work? Or some of each?