A Class Note From Nearly 30 Years Ago — Roger Winter and A Transfer of Spirit

Roger Winter and Lin Wang at Kirk Hopper Gallery

The current exhibition A Transfer of Spirit at Kirk Hopper Gallery features a selection of work from students who studied with Roger Winter from the museum school in the 60’s and SMU. The opening was well-attended and included a visit from Laura and George W. Bush, who studied with Gail Norfleet, one of the featured artists.


We had the great pleasure to meet and interview Roger Winter at the gallery the morning after the opening. During the interview, he brought out an email print-out from Martin Cox, husband of late Laurie Cox. Laurie was one of his students at SMU and her work was also featured in the show.

“Martin told me that Lauri would love to be here,” Winter said, “Here is a class note that I wrote in 1986. She kept that on her wall for almost thirty years. She had a show shortly before she passed away, and she sent me an invitation and she said, ‘Your voice is in my head every day. Sometimes I listen.'” Winter said with a smile.

The class note here discusses little about techniques, but about the fundamental question of being an artist. In a 1983 Dallas Morning News article, Winter said “You can do a quick fix and keep a student going for a semester, but then when he gets away from you, he returns to room temperature. I’m more interested in giving my students some ethics and ideas that will see them through the long run.” The diversified styles and techniques in the current show are the proof of his teaching methodology.

Here is the transcription:

February 9, 1986.

To my drawing class: Any drawing method that prevents failure also prevents success by paralyzing the natural drive to discover new life in one’s work. The best a safe method can do is to habituate an artist’s work into perpetual mediocrity. Rather than going from A to Z in rational steps, a drawing goes from A to heaven knows where by hazardous route forged by the drawing process itself, guided by the most general of concepts and goals. Sometimes a drawing ends in disaster and sometimes it is brilliantly successful, and the drawer never really knows why in either case.

This attitude toward process is no doubt familiar to all creative workers. First you get something strong going, no matter how rough or how out of focus. Then you go through the rough work looking for ideas that may be there and feeding new ideas into the work to keep it alive. The final combinations of bold decisions and subtle hints are too born of subjective experience and spontaneous discovery to translate into a method.

Drawing is not for the timid.

– Roger Winter

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