Our Memorial Show for our friend, the late Tom Buechner, has come down. It was a great success and we thank everyone who came out to see Tom’s work as well as the Tribute show of work by Tom’s paintings companions and students. We have been running a series of essays by those artists who participated in the tribute show and will continue to do for the next few weeks.
Today we feature the essay of painter Tom Gardner.
“To Sir with Love”
In 1974, Tom was about to have his first one man show ever, at The Art Shop in Elmira, when I met him. He saw some paintings of mine stacked up next to the door, and against tables and benches and in the doorways. He couldn’t miss them. He had to step over them to get thru the place. He invited me to come to his house and paint with him on Saturdays, as I heard he might do if he knew you were a painter too. And he did! I still have the painting I did that Saturday. It was a most unfortunate effort, to say the least, and I held on to it to remind myself how much I had to learn.
In those days Tom was still a captain of industry and somehow found the time to show me what to do. There was no studio, per se, in the house back then. We just rolled the living room rug up and painted, the two of us.
Oh, there are so many things to remember, but let it suffice to say that Tom gave me the equivalent of a university education in art, with a minor in opera, fine coffee, and the finer points of living. He really did show me a world I never knew existed. It all brings to mind the words to the song “To Sir With Love“…and it would revolt him to no end to be the object of such a maudlin swill. The comparison would not set well—sentimental slop—but true, all the same.
I did learn one good lesson over my years of association with Tom. That was to listen carefully anytime he talked about art or the craft of painting. There was always a gem hidden in there somewhere.
Over the years I would hear him tell a student to do this or that, and once I said, “You never showed me that”. He said, “You wouldn’t have listened, Gardner, and besides, I had to try this stuff out on someone, and that was you—sort of a trial and error thing. Thanks for being my test dummy”. Well, I guess I’m still ramming my head against the creative wall, and when I do, Tom’s voice is always in my head with a good answer to the problem.
It’s hard to discover your own voice as an artist when such a strong voice is guiding your hand at every turn, but Tom wouldn’t let me settle for less in myself. He demanded my very best at all times.
Yeah, there is some of Tom Buechner in every painting I do. Like it or not, he’s a part of my artistic DNA.