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History Lives Here Text

Recollectionsof Art Study in Saugatuck

Ox-Bow SummerSchool of Painting

LeRoy Neiman

LeRoy Neiman was aninstructor of figure drawing and fashion illustration at the School of the ArtInstitute of Chicagoin the 1950s and spent the summers of 1957 and 1958 on the staff at Ox-Bow. Hebegan work with Playboy magazine in1954. Neiman was described by the 1996 edition of Current Biography as "the most popular living artist in the United States"and compared with the late Norman Rockwell. His specialty is sportsillustration, using a technique that adds both action of emotion to thesubject. He work has appeared in many other books and magazines and he wasartist for three consecutive ABC telecasts of the Olympic Games. He now livesand maintains a studio in New York City. In answer to a request for his recollections ofOx-Bow, he sent the following:

 

My firstsummer spent at Saugatuck was also the first year of my marriage to Janet Byrnewho had also been a student of the Art Institute of Chicago.

 

Another year Ibrought my friend Shel Silverstein, the cartoonistand country music writer with his guitar to the Ox-Bow Summer School.

 

It was atSaugatuck that I'd take a model into the woods and do nature studies of thenude outdoors. My first and only lithograph I did on the school'spress was a result of those sketches.

 

Then there wasBurr Tillstrom and his puppets and the camp's cook, alovable plump older lady who would "hit" students and faculty forpaintings because she collected and loved art so much. We later discovered shewas selling them.

 

Lots ofmemories -- good ones -- it's wonderful to know new generations areexperiencing Saugatuck as we did.

Shel (or Shelby)Silverstein was the writer and illustrator of a series of children's booksincluding The Giving Tree, Where theSidewalks End and TheLight in the Attic. He also wrote country andwestern music, his best known song is probably "A Boy Named Sue"later recorded by Johnny Cash.

Bill Olendorf

The recollectionsbelow are excerpts from a long video interview by John Lebenin December of 1995. Olendorf was a commercial artist who painted destinations for airlines andtravel companies, scenes for a Dutch travel agency, and a series of stockexchanges. He also provided illustrations for four books and many othercommercial art applications. At the same time, during his travels, he paintedlarge canvases in bright colors of scenes and activity, that were, and continueto be, popular with midwestart collectors. The Olendorf familybought a cottage on the Ganges lakeshore in1948 and, in the 1970s and 1980s, were investors in the Red BarnTheater. Bill Olendorf died in February, 1996.

 

Ox-Bow was avery influential part of my art life, my career. I had studied art in both highschool and in college, but never got totally into the art business as a way oflife, until somebody talked me into taking a week at Ox-Bow as a student on myvacation. It was such a completely different atmosphere from anything I had everexperienced in the art world. It was a completely remote area. Everyone who wasthere was there to enjoy themselves and study the world of art , I had paintedin Chicago at the Old Town Art Center and studied art there, taken a fewcourses at the Art Institute, not anything to be serious about; I wasn'tserious at Ox-Bow either, but I became so enveloped in the art world there. Ithought, "God what a marvelous place this is." My teachers there wereoutstanding, so laid back. They were genteel, really class people.

 

There was always a group of young kids, from the Art Institute who hadcome to Ox-Bow. I was always impressed with their desireto progress. I hear that some of them today are very successful internationallyknown painters.

 

First of all,we concentrated on technique. They had excellent teachers showing you thecurrent techniques of painting. Secondly, they talked about concepts ofthinking out what you wanted to do. I can remember going out in classes andwatching 25 people stare at a little bush where a bunch of butterflies werelanding, catching the color with the sunshine beating down on the greens,browns and blacks, just color, and appreciating it... Painting is recording beauty, that seemed to be the major thrust of the Ox-Bowpeople.

 

I kept comingback year after year. Every year at the end of the season they had acelebration and as part of the pageant they would have the model of the year,usually a very attractive young Art Institute model, standing up in a rowboatcoming across the bay with one or two guys rowing her in. It was a beautifulsight seeing this naked young lady being rowed across the water.

 

One of my bestpals was one of the top photographers of Lifemagazine. He just went up there to spend time photographing wild animals,bugs, flies, everything you could imagine. He always had a camera out, and atthe end of the summer he had a collection of marvelous scenes that went into Life magazine.

 

LeRoy Neiman was ayoung man working at a Chicagodepartment store illustrating men's fashion ads when I first met him. He was avery talented person. He used to teach at Ox-Bow and came with his wife, Janet,for a cocktail at my house on the lake. Five years later we were doing the samething in Parisat the Gaslight Club.

 

I was in oneor two Chicago Art Institute shows and the last one I went to LeRoy Neiman and I went together. He picked me up in a taxicab and we went to the Art Institute because we knew our paintings would be inthis show. As we walked into the show he said, "I have a feeling that thisis the last show we're going to be in at this museum." I agreed and wewalked all the way around. And, sureenough, there was his painting and there was mine. And the Best of Show was apainting, all black. A fancy frame and all black. That was the best of show. Helooked at me. I looked at him. We both had a big laugh. This is what the worldof art is coming to. And he said,"This is why we will never be back in another show at the ArtInstitute." We went out and had a drinkand a big laugh, and that was the end of it.

 

It was thebest of times, learning how to paint with the best of people with the mostattractive young models and the most interested art students that you can imagine. It was marvelous towalk through that high grass, looking at some attractive young lady ahead ofyou getting ready to stop somewhere and do a painting, with all that sunshineand high grass. Like being alone in the world. Something special.

TAYLOR ART SCHOOL

 

MartiPeterkin

 

In an oral interviewwith Patti Rickets in 1996 Marti Peterkin talkedbriefly about her study and friendship with Cora Bliss Taylor who ran an artschool in Saugatuck from 1931 to 1980.

 

I am awatercolorist and studied with Cora Bliss Taylor and we would come here [wherethe Harbors Health Care Facility was later built and paint and it wasbeautiful.

 

Cora BlissTaylor was written up in Who's Who, she was a very famous person. Genevieve Coatoam and I would help her every year with a party forher students.

 

She alwayswore a hat, beautiful hats. She started the interurban and I was so proud ofher. She was a lot of fun. I enjoyed her.

 

TheCoffey Family

 

My daughters, Angle and Jenny,took art lessons from Mrs. Taylor for a few summers. They have many happymemories of these special times.


Mrs. Taylor in her big, flower-trimmed hat, was alwayssmiling and encouraging the students in her art class. Patience was needed andshe had it in
abundance. She never seemed to lose her "cool." The class wasunstructured, the students working at their own level and pace.

 

Children metfor lessons on summer mornings in the backyard of the Taylor home on Mason Street. On sunny days the studentssat outside and painted whatever held their interest. On rainy days they workedin her studio.

 

Sometimes shewould take them on a walk around town to paint the sights of Saugatuck. Shealways had treats at the end of class and the children looked forward to that.

 

An artexhibition of work by the children was held at the end of summer. A clotheslineexhibit displayed the paintings and the children could invite their family andfriends. Mrs. Taylortalked to all the adults about the children's work and progress, but moreimportantly, she listened to the children and praised their work.

 

She seemed togenuinely enjoy the kids. She told them stories about places she had visitedand what life was life when she was young. She instilled in them an interestand desire to travel. They thought she was very "worldly." -- GingerCoffey

A K STUDIO

 

SyIvia Miller Randolph

 

Albert H. Krehbiel was a slim and spry man.He had a sharp chin with a goatee and iron gray hair over which he usually worea hat.

 

There were three in my family who took lessons, me, my sister and mymother who was about 60 at the time. He would say, "Here comes the Miller family." My mother and sister stayedat the Maplewoodwhere Krehbiel had some of his meals, and may havestayed, and my husband and I sometimes went there for meals on their big porch.

 

We would go down to his studio by the waterfront at 9 a.m. and usuallypaint indoors in the morning, when it was still cold or if it was raining. Wedid a lot of interiors at the fisherman's shack and the carpentry shop near thestudio.

 

Then we would go home for lunch and paint scenes around town in theafternoon. This was back when there weren't many cars and we had to walk andcarry all of our painting equipment up the hill to the Congregational Church,or anywhere else we had selected to paint. He was always impressed with howstraight my mother stood, even when she was loaded down with her paint boxes.

 

He would say,"There's no bend in her back at all," even though she was past 60.

 

She usually signed her paintings "E. Z. Miller" using herinitials, and he kidded her about that because mother was a tee-totaller and very traditional, anything but"easy."

 

He helped his students as they were painting and would occasionally usea brush on a student's painting to make a point, or sometimes draw a suggestionon the border. I didn't like him to touch my painting so I would say,"Just tell me, Albert."

 

Mr. Krehbiel always made a point of puttingwarm colors in the ground. He was great for color and the ground did usuallylook warm, especially against the green of the leaves and the trees.

We enjoyed him, he was spry and full of life.

Winifred C. Flack

The lessonswere held in a frame building, dark red in color, that was torn down to makeroom for the Ship 'n Shore motel-boatel. It had a dutchdoor, unusual for this area. You could talk through the upper half and leavethe bottom closed.

 

We didn'tpaint much as a class in the studio. We would have sketching sessions andfigure drawing, and talk about ideas and theories. In the afternoons we wouldgo out on location and do our own individual paintings.

 

Mr. Krehbiel would say very little while we were painting, andthere was little interference with what a student was doing, but we wouldsometimes have critique sessions where Mr. Krehbieland the other students would discuss your paintings.

 

He used totell us that an artist needed to look at what they wanted to paint and make areal plan in their head before beginning to paint. He said, "You shouldstudy what you want to do for an hour, then do it in10 minutes." Study it first, so that you really knew the scene and thenyou could paint the essence of it.

 

The time wasall work, not a tedious kind of work, but very intense and interesting as welearned to transfer what we could see to the canvas. It was a very stimulatingtime.