Sunday, January 31, 2010

Wayne Thiebaud

I went to hear Wayne Thiebaud speak in San Francisco a couple of years ago. At the time, I was showing my work at Paul Thiebaud - his son's - gallery. The talk was at the Herbst Auditorium, one in a series of talks organized by Wendy Lesser, editor of the Threepenny Review, who also interviewed Mr. Thiebaud.

The stage was arranged in a cozy living room setting, and Mr. Thiebaud was at ease in the wing-backed chair. With his lean frame you could imagine him popping onto the courts the next day for a game of tennis.

One of the best things he said that night was about the physicality of art. "The art department should be next to the gym!"

He was gracious with questions. Someone asked him if he had any favorite colors of paint. After a small pause he answered, "You can make any color with a warm and a cool version of each of the primaries." It was the most succinct, direct, complete explanation I've heard of the color wheel, and I've based my own teaching of color on it ever since.

He was sharp, generous, illuminating, droll, and humble about his own success. You get the feeling he's far more at home as a teacher than as an art star.

In my opinion, he's one of the greatest living teachers of art, in addition to being a deeply inventive, expressive and in my mind consummate artist - one who is both playful and serious. He has always done what he wants to do.

Here he is interviewed for a television channel. If you watch it all the way through, you'll find some quotable moments yourself.


  1. Julia, I just watched all of this video. Finally! I loved it. Especially interesting for me after your lessons about painting, the way you manage to deconstruct it so that it's accessible, but still mysterious. I see you in your own video in another 25 or 40 years - maybe sooner - wise as can be.

  2. Sally, thank you for your precise compliment, it means a lot. I aspire to live up to your vision of me! I'm so glad you enjoyed watching and hearing Mr. Thiebaud.