In the early days of the California Art Institute, brilliant artist-proprietor Fred Fixler's primary disciple was Mark Westermoe.
An artistic force in his own right, Mark's style was gentler than Fred's--more refined, more lyrical--bringing an astute sense of empathy to his drawings and paintings. If Fred was Beethoven, Mark was Mozart. To watch him work was mesmerizing, intoxicating, and so I was seduced to attend first one of his classes, then two, then several.
Quite simply, Mark taught me most of what I know about art: how to draw and how to paint, but also human anatomy, and a good deal about the history of illustration in America and beyond. He also taught me how to teach.
After two years Mark became so busy with freelance work that instructing students became a burden to him, so I was asked to take over his drawing classes. I continued to teach for the next 15 years, well after Fred retired and sold the school to Buddy Schumann.
Mark Westermoe died this morning; a major loss to those who knew him and were taught by him, and those who love great art--classical, disciplined art--the kind that the old masters advocated and were famous for.
The tragedy of Mark's life and death I will leave to others to discuss. For me, I choose to remember his many stunning demonstrations--great performances, really--fueled by a rare and refined knowledge of his craft. I remember his wry sense of humor, and the pride he took in his students when they did good work. I have strived, and continue to strive, to live up to his high expectations of me.