The Impact of a Mentor and an Educator – Remembering Ron Weaver

Mud Flat and Harbor - (c) Ron Weaver

As some of you know, I got my BFA in Painting/Drawing at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.  When I started I was an Art-Education major.  It was my second semester there, and I enrolled in the Drawing II Color course with Ron Weaver.  He had gotten his MFA at Yale, painted and exhibited his work nationally, and it was his last year of teaching before retiring from teaching. 

(c) Ron Weaver

This class became a pivotal class in my education, and my life for that matter.  Ron not only pushed us to be better artists, but better people as well.  I can remember every assignment for that class in great detail even though it has been close to 10 years since I took his course.  We started out the course by doing color exercises – cutting up Color-Aid packets, and discussing Josef Albers (who he studied under at Yale).    

(c) Ron Weaver

I recently found out about his passing after battling cancer.  I’ve had a heavy heart the last few days when remembering such a great man, and his impact on my life. 

This semester I am teaching the same course – Design II Color – here in South Dakota – we are working through the Albers exercises right now in class, and just last week, I told my students how lucky I was to have studied with Ron Weaver when I was in undergrad.  His love of color and painting were so apparent in his every action – when he spoke of the art he loved the room would be captivated.  He was definitely a ‘painters painter’. 

Black Horse and Barbara - (c) Ron Weaver

One day later in the semester in Ron's class we were doing a drawing exercise where we were to sit next to a partner and draw their profile in line in about 10 minutes to test our observational abilities.  I drew my friend Dan, and was pretty happy with my drawing.  When Ron came around checking all of the drawings he smiled when he looked at mine and asked me to stay after class. 

Mudflat Rock - (c) Ron Weaver

I stuck around and he asked me a barrage of questions: why did I choose art education?  Why not studio art? What did I want out of my life?  What did I want out of my education?  He strongly suggested I drop art education and become a painter.  I was already shying away from K-12 education at that point – I loved teaching, but was not a fan of bureaucracy and restrictions (much of which were creeping in to K-12 education at a high rate even then).  Up to that point, no one had really said that painting and studio arts would be a good career path for me– I had always been steered towards something more ‘practical’.  But none of the practical options were good options for me.  This conversation lit a fire within me.  It gave me the permission to let myself do something risky – to embrace the unknown, and to pursue the thing that had always made me the happiest.  It was a changing point in my life.

(c) Ron Weaver

There were many more after-class conversations that happened that semester – ones in which he told me and a few other students about his experiences as a painter – his education – his ‘adventures’.  He taught not in the classroom, but by example as well.  He was a prolific painter – working both in and out of the studio.  He set an excellent precedence for what it meant to be a committed artist, not just a Sunday painter.  He was completely enthralled and engaged by painting, color, light, and sharing beauty with those he came in contact with.  I don’t think ‘passion’ is a strong enough word to describe his relationship to painting.

Kneeling Nude - (c) Ron Weaver

It has always been my belief that the best thing we can do with our time on this planet is to be kind and always do our best to help others.  When our physical bodies fail us, our actions and shared kindness is what is left of us.  I am honored to have worked with Ron at Oshkosh, and hope to continue his kindness, his generosity, and his teaching through my own art and in my relationship with my students. 

Thank you Ron.

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