|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Source: 40 Watercolorists and How They Work by Susan E. Meyer, Watson-Guptill Publications|
Zygmond Jankowski was born in South Bend, Indiana. He studied with Victor Dewilde, Otis Oldfield and George Post at the California College of Arts and Crafts.
Jankowski has taught his art at Indiana University, South Western Michigan College, Hilton Leech School of Art, Bremen Art Center and Niles Art Center. He also conducted workshops at his studios in Gloucester, Massachusetts and the South Bend Art Association.
Jankowski commented on the art of watercolor in the book, 40 Watercolorists and How They Work. ""Watercolor is the only medium that lets you be yourself. It records the way you feel and move at a particular moment. With oil, you work and labor and can spend all year on a painting if you want. But watercolors dry in about 20 minutes, and I think that's as long as you should spend on it."
Zygmond Jankowski died on Wednesday, December 31, 2009 at his home in Gloucester, Massachusetts.
By Charles Movalli
painter Zygmund Jankowski died last week. Though he was well over 80,
his death was still a surprise. He was something of a hypochondriac and
had been telling me about his imminent demise for almost 30 years.
given his amazing articulateness, his fluent artist's technique, and
his extraordinary productivity, I'd decided that the man was a bull,
destined to go on forever.
I first saw Zyg's work - no one
called him "Zygmund" - at local shows. His work had a "wit" that I'd
seldom seen in paintings. This, I thought, must be one very happy,
outgoing individual. So I wangled a lunch date on Rocky Neck.
a surprise I had. I found him a serious man, concerned about the
direction of American art and quick to make rather rough judgments of
his contemporaries. He seemed to be deeply worried that Rembrandt might
not be proud of him.
Some of this deep seriousness, he
explained, was a residue of his strict Catholic upbringing in South
Bend, Ind. He claimed he'd even given some thought to becoming a
priest. Barring that, he felt predestined to join his relatives working
as laborers on the line at Studebaker.
His family had no
interest in aesthetics. His mother's dying words to him were "work hard
and make lots of money." But when young Zyg showed talent, an uncle
took him under his wing. Years before, the uncle had won a scholarship
to the Art Students League in New York - but the family refused to let
him accept it. So the two surreptitiously practiced art on the
weekends, telling the relatives that they were "going fishing."
greatest break in Zyg's life came after he'd talked to his pals in the
Navy about his interest in art. Home from the war and facing the
assembly line, he received a telegram telling him that his mess-mate
had enrolled him in the California College of Arts and Crafts. He was
to start immediately. Leaving a note for his parents on the kitchen
table, Zyg headed West.
At this time, California was famous for
its watercolorists, and Zyg took it all in like a sponge: Rex Brandt,
Dong Kingman, but especially the simple, restrained work of George Post.
could soon out-Post Post, such was his quickness at grasping the ideas
behind different styles. He later used this training to found a
commercial art studio back in South Bend.
The studio was only there to make money:
did highlights on engine screws," he said. He never took "arty" jobs.
He did his "serious" art work at night. He also taught at the local
university, until the powers-that-be decided department members must
have PhDs. So Zyg began to teach privately.
In truth, he spent
his whole life teaching, sometimes being paid for it, but most of the
time, not. He gave up the business when he was in his late forties and
came to Gloucester to concentrate on his art.
was a mixture of Old Testament Prophet and Notre Dame Jesuit. This made
him a good fly-fisherman, a terrific poker player, and an imposing
instructor. Before casting a thunderbolt, he'd often try an avuncular
I was frequently incinerated, however, since I kept
committing the ultimate semantic crime by referring to his works as
"pictures." "Pictures" came from the camera and "the camera always
lies" he would say. He excoriated painters who buried themselves in
photographic details - "they're just third-rate illustrators" or
"picture makers," he would say, He had respect for Andrew Wyeth, but
none for his imitators.
For Zyg, everything existed in relation
to everything else, and these relationships were distorted by the flat,
exaggerated focus of the camera. When you paint, he'd say, think about
Taking students to the town wharves, he'd point
to the seagulls. "What color are they? Watch them go from the sky to
the trees to the buildings, and the sea." Against each background, they
changed color - most noticeably from black against the sky to white
against distant trees.
For fun, he'd suggest that students
follow the edge around a portrait by John Sargent: never a wire line,
it subtly shifts from hard to soft, as it relates to the background.
when I was having trouble judging the color of a model's eye-socket, I
was told to "look at her thumb." A mystic suggestion! But the thumb
caught a reflection from the pants and was bright red: using that color
as a gauge, I looked back at the socket and saw a beautiful green.
might be expected, Zyg had a contempt for rules and regulations. Look
and feel, he'd say. Compositional rules came "after the fact." That is:
the artist creates, and literary men codify the results.
of his iconoclasm, Zyg could be a particularly bracing or scary
influence on students, most of whom cling tightly to any rule that
might help them through the complexities of art. Rather than help, Zyg
felt that "The Rules" hamstrung students, and made them afraid to trust
their own instincts.
Much like our poet Vincent Ferrini, Zyg
had come to the conclusion that, after all his years of study and
practice, his instincts and experience could be trusted. He was willing
to let an educated impulse guide his hand.
Since he also felt
that there were limitless possibilities in every subject, he would
spend a day working over a motif, doing 10 or even 20 interpretations,
each emphasizing a different element: rhythm, weight, space, shape,
color. When you asked him what he'd been doing lately, he might hand
you a stack of watercolors, two feet tall!
It seems like
yesterday - but it was probably 20 years ago when we had lunch at Rocky
Neck. I had the temerity to ask him how one could become a decent
Zyg quickly grabbed a pencil and wrote the "solution" on a piece of a ripped place mat.
It's framed now and hangs next to my easel.
In a lower corner, he wrote "HONESTY." Then, in bigger letters, he wrote: "Make a Few Mistakes"."
Tribute, The Gloucester Daily Times, January 2010
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