Night fell particularly dark on the East Side of Providence. One fall semester, 1992. My first class. An evening class at RISD. Uneven brick sidewalks and ornamental iron streetlights guided my supply-laden body. Figure drawing was on the third floor of what was once a factory.
Entering the building for the first time the smell of creativity enveloped my senses. Oil paint permeated the air and my soul. Dizzying. My eyes closed meditatively in hopes of forever capturing the moment. For once and possibly the first time I was exactly where I wanted to be. Where I needed to be. I had spent a lifetime imagining a somewhere else. Finally, I understood where my spirit would soar. No longer was I a young child trapped in a grammar school classroom wanting to be free. I couldn’t wait to charge up the stairs. Relishing confinement.
I entered my future greeted by oversized beveled windows stretched from floor to ceiling. Chipped white paint represented character, not disrepair. A worn wooden oak floor creaked with a familiar warmth. A high-ceilinged room stretched to infinite possibilities. The hiss of steam introduced the radiators to each of us. One window was cracked ever so slightly with the assistance of a random chunk of wood. Easels surrounded the 8 x 10 pine platform where a male model would soon move seamlessly from one warm-up pose to the next.
Students carefully found their spot and adjusted their easel. Light conversation filled the room before we began. The journey was official. The instructor, the teacher, the artist, Robin Wiseman.
In his classroom Robin was incredibly generous with his vast knowledge of everything art. An in-depth knowledge of notable as well as the more obscure artists. Books and information were readily shared, and instruction was extraordinary.
One on one critiques were given with regularity. Always learning something more intricate about one’s work. Something about ourselves too. On rare occasions Robin would share private stories while offering us a glimpse into his sacred world. Like his drawings he could paint big pictures with few words. After all it was about the work. The art.
“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown
known is the important thing.” Georgia O’Keeffe