In conjunction with our ongoing Memorial Show for the late Tom Buechner, we have been running a series of essays that were written by artists who painted and/or studied with Tom. These essays accompanied an accompanying tribute show consisting of work by these artists that hangs in the upstairs gallery at the West End. The show ends November 12.
Today’s post is from Vani Pippala Akula.
It all started with a request for modeling for a month for the Friday night portrait class. I was thrilled even though I hated modeling. For 15 years I had pushed my passion for painting aside, making a living as a molecular biologist and software engineer. Here was an opportunity to get into a painting session with a master painter. After my month of modeling I was accepted into the class. I dusted my easel and walked into my first painting session. The opera started and the magic was on. There was only one problem. Through the silence of the class and above the melody of the opera was an intermittent squeak. Every time I touched the easel, it squeaked. I looked around nervously; no one seemed to mind except for Tom. I saw him roll his eyes and I was mortified. I held the easel tightly with my left hand and very uncomfortably started painting. “Here, let me help you!” Tom whispered, with a screwdriver in his hand and a twinkle in his eyes, as he fixed the squeaky easel. “Wow! What a contrast to the guy who rolled his eyes”, I thought. That was my introduction to Tom, the paradox. I looked forward to Friday nights and especially to the (sometimes painful) critique.
After 2 years of painting, I mustered enough courage to quit my day job and dedicate myself to being a fulltime artist. I approached Tom to mentor me, bribing him with Indian lunches. What followed were pearls of wisdom on life as an artist. “Vani, I have to tell you that you are at the losing side of this deal. I benefit more from your lunches than you do from my advice”, he said with a chuckle. Little did he know!
I never got a chance to express to him my gratitude for enabling me to live my dream!!
Thank you, Tom.
– Vani Pippala Akula