Monday, November 19, 2007

Ted Ramsay

Coffee Break, 2007
Acrylic on Canvas

My name is Ted Ramsay, and I’ve been teaching painting at the University of Michigan, and drawing, and other studio courses for 41 years, so I’m one of the senior people around the school. Why am I an artist? I’ve always thought of myself as an artist, my grandmother was an artist, my grandfather was an architect. So there was a lot of encouragement in the household whenever I did drawing. There’s something about drawing that goes in a different direction for me, it helps me communicate. I think that basically I’m a storyteller. I like to tell stories. For me, painting and drawing allows me to do this. I also do writing, and oftentimes I write down my ideas and then I’ll paint them. Sometimes I paint my ideas and then write them down afterwards. I, as a personal artist, feel that by drawing something I learn much more about it. We live in this really, incredibly fast-paced culture, and so by sitting down and drawing, or interviewing a person, painting them, I learn much more about them. I find that I can really understand something if I sit down and draw it. So for example, if I’m on a trip to Thailand or Burma or China, I actually sit down and I’ll draw a temple and learn about it. And then often times I’ve had monks come over and sit down and talk with me and look at the drawings. It’s a wonderful exchange. Drawing, I think like music, is a very universal kind of language. It just simply flows. I would like to make something very important out of it, but it’s a lifestyle, it’s an existence. I’m very happy when I do this. I enjoy teaching others how to see. For me seeing is really learning everything that I’ve really wanted to learn. It keeps me very balanced, very happy. Many of my pieces are about the human condition, the way people feel, think, and act.

I try to pick models that are very interesting to me as conversation partners, as well as a person who will be wonderful in a painting, they can take that mood, they know what I’m trying to do and they go along with me, and it becomes a dialogue, their modeling and my painting.

In my drawing, I try to combine the skills of the past, I try to pass that along to my students, and then I put it with contemporary ideology and techniques. So often I’ll put renaissance style drawing in with computer-generated images. I’m trying in my own way, as an older faculty member, to grow along with the students. And I learn from them. And I’m always in school, it seems like. When I’m teaching, I’m learning, and I think that’s one of the reasons that I’ve been in teaching for so long because I feel like I’m also a student.

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