Saturday, March 20, 2010

In Memory of Stephen Pat Brown

Stephen Brown, Self Portrait, oil on panel
With great sadness I found out yesterday afternoon that Stephen Pat Brown passed away on October 21, 2009. Stephen was one of the few who touched my life in a special way while attending the Hartford Art School. His work was something to be admired and it was a standard that many wanted to attain. This kind and loving man was adored by staff and students alike, and it was because he was happy doing what he did; painting. He used to tell us how amazing it was to wake up in the morning and make a cup of coffee, and with that in hand, to walk in the studio and begin painting. Good painting does not come from random inspiration we all need to wait for; it comes from working hard day in and day out, he once said. It was discipline, determination, and love all in one. Even on days when one didn't feel like working, it had to be done!
Stephen Brown, Onion on Bowl, oil on panel
I met him on the second semester of my freshman year of college. I was running late, and I remember going up a long flight of stairs to get to the room where he would teach me foundations drawing II. My tardiness kept recurring and disapproval came from his direction, but he was never mean or cold, he just made sure to push me harder. I would get frustrated from time to time because I felt he was picking on me. I was told by one of the students that he pushed me because he saw a lot of talent. As the semester came to a close, on the last day of class, we all sat and he went around the room and telling each student, one by one, what their abilities were, and how their character could make them into better artists. Stephen had an ability of getting close to his students, something other professors weren't able to do. He knew how to respect his students as artists and adults, he was able to see what each individual needed to reach his/her full potential. As his finger moved around pointing, it landed on me as he called my name. I'll always remember what he thought of me, with a little more focus I could be a damn good painter. I had a talent he wanted to see flourish into something great and I just needed to believe and work hard at it.
Stephen Brown, David, oil on panel
A drawing or painting could always be made better, and when I showed him an 18 x 24 still life, I had painted outside of my assignment load, he said that it was good, but that I needed some cools in the shadow. For Stephen it was all a play between warm and cool, and he made sure to ingrain that in his students. I liked the man, this six foot something guy who wore the funkiest shoes I had seen to date. Red Clarks clogs were not a regular thing where I come from, but there he was, wearing them with a few specks of paint, a pair of light washed jeans, a shirt under a sports jacket and a baseball cap. He always had a smile, and if approached, he didn't mind spending a few short, or long, minutes talking about just anything. He was open, and enjoyed chatting in his office about his school years, about his family, about his painting. Stephen loved his family to pieces. He always talked about his wife and kids with such joy. There was a time they visited him at school and he was so ecstatic to see them. They were his world, something that can be witnessed in the portraits of his son, Rush, and other family and friends.
Stephen Brown, After the Rain, oil on panel
Stephen was a kid at heart. His class was the fun one, notorious for going out to play dodgeball or frisbee in the park. It was one of those random things when the day was bright he would ask "who has a car?" I can fit this many in my truck, who can take the rest. And off we all went to Elizabeth Park. He would run, laugh, and play like a kid among his students. This was his way of connecting with us on a personal level, it was a learning experience for all parties, and it was a way of sharing the happy, simple things in life. This is what made Stephen the special human being he was.
Stephen Brown, Portrait of John, oil on panel
Stephen enjoyed life and wanted to share that with all. He genuinely wanted to learn from others, to have some sort of meaningful exchange. It is no wonder that three years later, in his advanced painting class, he would read to us part of the introduction to Hawthorne On Painting, and from there on it never left my life. I made the first sentence of that introduction the theme of this blog in 2006, and now I shall copy bellow the first paragraph in full and dedicate it to the man who changed my way of seeing and painting:
Anything under the sun is beautiful if you have the vision-it is the seeing of the thing that makes it so.The world is waiting for men with vision-it is not interested in mere pictures. What people subconsciously are interested in is the expression of beauty, something that helps them through the humdrum day, something that shocks them out of themselves and something that makes them believe in the beauty and the glory of human existence. (Charles W. Hawthorne)
Thank you Stephen for being a part of this earth, thank you for allowing me to experience the beauty and the glory of your human existence!

3 comments:

O. Douglas said...

Your tribute to your former teacher is very touching and makes me regret that I never met the man. Thanks for the introduction (although posthumous) to a great artist and for your inspiring words.

Neuriel said...

I, too, was one of Stephen's students at Hartford Art School. I was the subject for his "Portrait of John" actually. His classes were precisely as Luis described them. They were one of the few places I felt I would be welcomed with an open mind and open heart. He's the only professor at the school that ever gave me an invitation to his home and studio. It saddens me to know that more people will never get to meet this remarkable man.

John H. Gaffey

Luis Colan said...

John, thank you for your comment, I have always been intrigued by your portrait. There will be a show of Stephen's work at the Hartford Art School later this year, October I believe...hope you can make it.
Best,

Luis Colan