Kidd and Mayan shared this class room.
Every now and again my thoughts go back to my school days, my Art Students League school days. I consider them to be some of my most cherished memories of the good old Bohemian days in New York. I studied there mainly with Thomas Fogarty Jr., Steven Kidd and Earl Mayan during the mid to the late seventy’s. That was back when poor artist could still rent out a cheap apartment or loft down in the Village. You could still go down to Tads Steak House on 34th Street and get a steak with potatoes for under two dollars, maybe three if you got beer! Try that nowadays! I can still recall the smell of roasted chestnuts and hot pretzels that were to be had on many corners along with the beef franks ( not chicken franks of today ).
I attended classes all day and would get in early after taking the A train in from Brooklyn where I lived. During the winter it was customary to dress up the skeleton that was in Fogarty’s class on the second floor which was my first class, later on I would switch to Kidd’s class in the mornings. It was probably the best dressed skeleton in Manhattan if not New York. Many times it looked like an anti-smoking ad because one student or another would put a cigarette between its teeth, when cigarettes were still cheap. Fogarty’s class would usually fill up to the brim. He was an amiable sort of teacher and popular. There we would go through the usual routine of 5 minute posses, then they would get longer until we had the long pose. Somewhere in between we got the mid-morning break and everyone would step out into the hall or go upstairs to the cafeteria to get something to eat or drink. The rest would have their smoke break in the hall. I imagine that does not take place nowadays with all the new laws since then. I am waiting to see when they pass the anti-farting law seeing as they have prohibited just about everything else.
Those were busy hectic days, a lot less stressful than these days. I recall I used to do tons of sketches and many times I would rip out a sketch and throw it on the floor only to have a student pick it up and save it. This is not to brag but in those days Steven Kidd would refer to a good artist as a snake and he used to say of me that I was a snake with an eye! Old Kidds class was like an artist boot camp. There were many times in which a student would leave the class weeping after one of his criticisms. He was of the old school, from the times of Reginald Marsh and his category. His class was the first one on the left on the first floor. His was a morning class. He had an old fashioned way of dressing with a big bow tie and suspenders and you could detect that old styled New York way of talking. His was an illustration class and the old boy knew his stuff. He had been a working artist taking all sorts of assignments be it for newspapers, magazines or ad agencies.
I still recall going out on break and seeing the old book seller that would set his table up outside the main office. I believe his name was Joe. I spent a fortune there but who could resist. He was able to sell books very cheap and of good quality. We used to get our art supplies from an art store located a few blocks from there that was run by an old couple. I hardly ever went into the art store across from the League except to look , too rich for my wallet. Oddly though I did get an Artograph over-head projector there once when they were affordable.
Earl Mayans class was in the afternoon. I was shocked to find out a while back that he was still alive and had a web site. He is in his nineties and still going at it. Mayans class was a polar opposite from Kidd’s class. Mayan was a mild gentle soul, soft spoken, articulate and always courteous and well mannered. I recall he used to hang out with the gang at the Society of Illustrators in his earlier years. My friend and I used to go there to check out the latest techniques and styles. That was the place to see the works of the contemporary illustrators of the day.
Then there were the party’s! There was a South American chap who had an apartment within walking distance of the League where a number of the students went on several occasions, including yours truly, and we had a smashing time with the traditional wine and cheese. I recall that on one such party that was at the League a black model went running out of the class and into the street streaking across 57th street, stark naked! Those were some great days. We were involved in the latest art theories and debates. We discussed the latest techniques and materials. We read The Art Spirit by Robert Henri! What more could one ask for. But Like everything else in life, nothing last forever! By the late seventies I left the League but have never forgotten it.