On Tom Buechner/ Hari Sharma

February 16, 2011

Gourds- Hari Sharma

I have known Tom Buechner for many years, since he used to teach art in 171 along with Marty Poole. After 171, I used to go to Sunday class and enjoy painting with him. We used to paint many subjects, like still objects, scenery, lakes, portraits, etc. It was fun doing that. He was a great teacher and we enjoyed working with him.

We miss him very much.


On Tom Buechner/ Lennolee Spraker

February 8, 2011

Touch-- Lennolee Spraker

I painted with Tom on and off for about thirteen years.  It was often just the two of us in the studio on holidays, and I would have the opportunity to ask him any questions I might want answered, and he was always honest and generous.  One day I asked him how many of us he had filled in the blanks in our art education.  I was astounded when he answered, “Oh, Lennolee, I would have to think,well over two hundred.”

The question that he answered that I most want to share with others was, “How did you do it Tom, with all of the responsibility that you had, how did you maintain the energy to attain the goals in painting that you did?”   He answered, “Oh, really, most people defeat themselves long before they get started.  They pick some lofty goal, select a day to accomplish it, and never get started”.  He said, “Success lies in taking many small steps toward the goal”, and he proceeded to tell me how he worked. He said that he would sit down in front of the painting with a nice glass of wine and a favorite cigar.  He would pick out the most disturbing part and jot it down on the small pad he always carried.  That would be the starting point for the next days work. It might take as little as fifteen minutes to correct, but, if that’s all he felt like doing, he would do that and go no further. He said, “This is the important part. You have to allow yourself to be glad of it”.  I pointed out that I doubted that he ever stopped painting after fifteen minutes.  He shared, “Not now, but in the beginning that was the case, when he was a young artist.” He said, “You see it takes up its own energy, and when that happens it just is part of who you are.”

      I feel so blessed that Tom recognized that what he knew of the mechanics of painting was unique in this modern world, and that he felt compelled to leave the legacy of classical painting behind.  I’m so glad that our stars crossed in such a way that I had the chance to study extensively with him.  For me, it was truly a dream come true



On Tom Buechner/ John B. Wahlig

January 29, 2011

Supreme Apple- John B. Wahlig


Asher Durand painted “Kindred Spirits” as a tribute to Thomas Cole upon his death.  It depicts and emphasizes the caring bond between Thomas Cole and his friend, the poet, William Cullen Bryant, in the Catskill Mountains.  “Kindred Spirits” evokes in me the respect of one artist’s feelings for another. 


Tom Buechner’s talent and leadership will be missed and can never be replaced.

Kindred Spirits- Asher Durand

On Tom Buechner/ Stefan Zoller

January 24, 2011

Decemeber Genesee- Stefan Zoller

When I first came to work with Tom Buechner in the summer of 2008 as his studio assistant, I had painted less than ten representational pictures during my short time as a painter. My primary focus (and consequently the focus of my senior exhibition at Houghton College) was on abstract works consisting of heavily layered stripes, whose muted grey colors originated from the Western New York landscape I had grown up in. It was both an exhilarating and daunting prospect coming to work with such a renowned master of figurative painting and staunch realist. 

Though I was certainly much farther behind in technical knowledge and abilities than my predecessors had been, it allowed me to give myself over to Tom’s direction completely, having little or no bad habits to break.

I told Tom from the outset, “Please direct me in every step of this, as I have no idea what I’m doing”. Tom obliged, and steadily began building in me a solid foundation of technical and theoretical approaches to painting. I began to maintain two separate ‘modes’ of painting; the first being my realistic works (primarily still lifes and portraits) done exclusively with Tom, and second, the continuation of my abstract work done in my home studio.

As I worked for and painted with Tom on a weekly basis, I began noticing distinct lessons and techniques which I was learning from Tom, creeping into my abstract work. Prior to Tom’s influence, my work had relied mostly on thin, transparent layers of paint, confined to strict rectilinear spaces. I soon found myself applying copious amounts of paint to the canvas in heavy impasto; an extreme extension of the thick, deft strokes I had come to admire in Tom’s looser works and those he had done in throughout the 1960’s and 70’s.

While painting still lifes with Tom, I learned two simple yet effective techniques which drastically altered my approach to my abstract work. The first, glazing in black, was the result of a discussion Tom and I had on the approaches of the old masters (specifically Spanish) and the need to create tonal richness and unity within a picture. The results of this technique on a simple still life of ceramic and glass bottles were so exciting that I began to glaze everything in my home studio, sometimes applying as many as nine or ten layers. This ‘discovery’ led to countless new ideas and directions within my abstract work.

The second significant technique Tom taught me was the use of pure color over white to achieve the brightest and most luminous colors possible. This approach was ultimately part of a much larger process of thinking he stressed every time I started a new picture, and that was to nail down the BIG ideas first and worry about specifics later. Colors I had previously muted by adding raw umber in the paint were now muted by glazing over the paint, resulting in richer colors and more compelling pictures.

For Tom, living and painting traditionally in New York City during the rise and reign of modernism/abstract expressionism, taking a guarded and often unimpressed view of non-representational painting was certainly natural and understandable. On one occasion, after I suggested that it would be interesting to see a Rubens and a de Kooning hung next to each other, Tom looked at me as if I’d just smashed the Ten Commandments. I felt it my duty as a practitioner of abstract painting to expose him to my own work which I felt had enough ‘painterly’ qualities to appeal to his sensibilities. After having seen a number of my non-representational paintings, Tom encouraged me to try and bring some of my abstract strengths (surface texture, spontaneity, composition) into the realistic work I was doing with him. While this was (and is) a difficult task, I began to become acutely aware of the interconnectedness between these two ‘styles’ of painting I would otherwise have thought and kept completely separate.

Though he would never have wanted to take credit for it, there is no doubt in my mind that my painting, both representational and abstract, has improved exponentially since painting with Tom. I feel overwhelmingly blessed to have been a part of Tom’s wisest years, and the recipient of his immense knowledge and gracious friendship.

On Tom Buechner/ Lucinda L. Sinkewicz

January 19, 2011

Sometimes humor flowed from his brush…how he did it is one of his great gifts. There’s a lot that’s really special about Tom’s paintings, not only his wonderful sense of humor, but all the intelligence and sensitivity that comes through.

I have painted with Tom Buechner for several years. Direct, and at the same time subtle, he prodded to make me more aware, giving me direction from the simple level of my awareness.

Giving of himself for that which makes beauty around us, his sense of fairness and justice, are things about him I will always remember, as well as the many wonderful Friday nights, and sometimes Sunday mornings, painting in his studio. I am so very grateful for the privilege of knowing and painting with such a fine artist and human being. He is sorely missed.

On Tom Buechner/ John van Otterloo

January 13, 2011

I started working for Tom Buechner in 2002 as one of his studio assistants from Houghton College. When I painted with Tom and other painters on Saturdays, I would pick an object or two to paint from his overflowing still life shelf. I am interested in painting everyday objects like these power cords, but painting them in unusual juxtapositions, or in a different context than that in which they would normally be encountered. When taken out of their normal context and painted on a still life shelf, I find that everyday objects can become characters on a stage, and take on anthropomorphic qualities. Tom was often amused by the objects I would pick to paint, but he always encouraged me to paint more and to stay away from the computer!

I miss the many conversations that we had after painting. Tom’s many interesting experiences, intellectual curiosity, and wisdom made conversations with him interesting and enjoyable. He could be encouraging, critical, and funny at the same time. I came to Corning expecting Tom to be an excellent painting teacher, and I was not disappointed. Over time though, he became more to me: a mentor, an advisor, and a friend that I miss dearly.

 –John van Otterloo

In Memory of Thomas Buechner/ Anne Bialke

January 11, 2011

In Memory of Thomas Buechner

My experience with Tom Buechner as a teacher happened many years ago, when my triplet girls were four years old, and I was trying to paint seriously again after being consumed with getting them (and us) through the first few years of life.  I read of a week-long workshop that the Arnot Art Museum was offering with Thomas Buechner;  the brochure had a small black and white image of a painting of a barn silhouetted against the sky on the side of a hill.  The piece was an artful mix of detail and suggestion, and I was impressed and attracted.  A dear friend offered to look after my children for five days from seven in the morning until about 6pm so that I could drive to Elmira and participate, and I signed up, excited at the thought of brushing shoulders with professionals for the first time since illustration graduate school in Syracuse, five years previously.

The week was a pleasure.  Mr. Buechner was an entertaining teacher, his remarks full of humor and wit, his observations sharp and to the point.  Marty Poole was his fellow teacher, and he added a great deal to the information disseminated, and spent time with many of us.  Not only was I introduced to the advantages of using alkyds in a plein air setting, but I remember a tongue-in-cheek discussion of what SORT of paper towels to use, Bounty being the obvious choice because of their STRENGTH.  This became a running joke during the week.  Not only did I learn a number of technical tips, but I was introduced to the concept of really thinking about the reason for painting a certain subject, and having that in mind as a goal before starting.  My decision to paint a particular scene usually had to do with its picturesque-ness,  so to have to think about a deeper concept was a little uncomfortable.

This workshop was my introduction to the vital painting scene in Corning, and it opened a whole new world for me.    With Marty Poole’s encouragement, I approached Lin and Tom Gardner at West End Gallery several weeks afterward, and they agreed to show my work.  For a time I attended Tom Buechner’s Friday night painting classes at his studio, but the drive home late at night in the dark winter months became a deterrent, as did the demands of my family.  I learned a great deal in the weeks I attended, and the memories of Mary Hickey posing and Wagner filling the air of the studio are vivid—as are the remarks Tom made to me about my work.  One evening he was looking at my underpainting, and said to me, “You draw very well.  You have to be careful not to let your drawing become facile.”  This brought me up short, but I understood that it would be too easy to become slick, and lose the careful observation and sensitivity that separate meaningful representation from a sound but generalized image.  Backgrounds were difficult, and I struggled with them.  I was particularly pleased with a still-life from the workshop until his dry comment during critique that it looked like there was a dust storm going on in the background.  Naturally I corrected it at the first opportunity.

As the years went on, I watched Tom Buechner’s work carefully, and bought all his books.  I was still painting for the gallery and myself, but family life in a different town, buying a farm and acquiring horses, raising our girls and supporting my husband’s very demanding career narrowed my participation in the artistic life in Corning.  When I heard this summer that he was ill and not expected to live long, it rocked me.  Mr. Buechner was an institution in my eyes, and even though I had had virtually no contact with him personally for many years, he lived large in my mind and world.  When he died, I felt a little as I had after the Twin Towers fell, waking up in the middle of the night and remembering the event with disbelief.  Surely nothing so monumental could have happened.

So I am among the many, many artists who owe Mr. Buechner a debt of gratitude for his teaching and interest.   I miss knowing he walks the same earth.  Like those of all my best teachers, his words and comments will always be with me, shaping my work and my ideas about art and how to make it.