‘Cool’ artist John Van Hamersveld meets with Greensburg Salem art students | TribLIVE.com
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Mary Pickels

One day before The Westmoreland Museum of American Art’s annual Big Art Party, the featured artist spent Friday conducting workshops for art students at Greensburg Salem High School.

The Westmoreland’s current exhibit, “Era of Cool: The Art of John Van Hamersveld,” continues through Oct. 20.

Van Hamersveld is perhaps best known for designing the movie poster for the cult film “Endless Summer” in 1964, and for creating album covers during the psychedelic era, including for the Beatles’ “Magical Mystery Tour,” the Rolling Stones’ “Exile on Main Street” and the Grateful Dead’s “Skeletons from the Closet.”

Hamsersveld also has created concert posters for musical icons including Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Bob Dylan.

Appropriately enough, the Oct. 5 Big Art Party theme is “Peace. Love. Art.”

Learning from a master

Students in art instructor Kelley Audia’s and her husband, Darryl Audia’s, classes met with Van Hamersveld throughout the day Friday.

Earlier this week, some students visited the museum exhibit, which includes a selection of Van Hamersveld’s album covers, poster designs, drawings, mural designs, photography and paintings.

Van Hamersveld, whose mother was an artist, began sketching and painting at age 12.

“From age 12 to 18, I was a surfer and an artist,” the California resident said.

A few decades ago, he told the students, some of his bread-and-butter work, album covers, disappeared as music became more of a digital product.

“You have to get used to it. The thing I learned about technology from analog is that analog is hooked to your mind. Tech is a different world. When I’m drawing it’s very emotional. With a computer, you’re not using your mind. It’s like it’s someone else’s program,” he said

Although Van Hamersveld continues to begin each design by hand, often with a Sharpie, entering the digital art world was a “breakthrough” for him.

Students can draw a picture, photograph and scan it, he said. The flexibility of technology allows him to email art that others then print or install. One student asks about math skills needed for an art career.

And he responds with the importance of incorporating computer skills into one’s art education. “Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop — you learn those two programs. That’s your future,” he said.

Along with lecturing in Kelley Audia’s class, Hamersveld also gave students in Darryl Audia’s class the opportunity to practice tracing and sketching the human face.

Mykayla Sproat, 14, asked him to autograph her notebook, which he did with a stylish scrawl. Sproat, who hopes for a career in art, said she is aware of his work and is a fan. “He gave good advice,” she said.

Quite the opportunity

Kelley Audia said she and her husband, both fans of the multidisciplinary pop artist, were thrilled with the opportunity to have their students learn from an artist whose career spans more than 50 years.

“Barbara Jones (chief curator for The Westmoreland) mentioned that he wanted to speak to some students. This is awesome, for these kids to meet him,” Audia said. Although some of the students see more contemporary visions in his art — guessing a John Lennon sketch is of Harry Potter, or that Jimi Hendrix is Prince — they are familiar with artist Shepard Fairey, who is inspired by Van Hamersveld, Audia says.

“For my husband and myself, as art instructors, we are not going to forget this,” she said. “My husband has the Grateful Dead ‘Skeletons from the Closet’ and the Beatles’ ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ albums.”

Audia said his presentation was relevant for art students, who are learning from someone still working in the field and who is encouraging them to pursue art.

They are learning that, along with getting a good grasp of computerized skills, sketching and drawing remain fundamental to making art, Audia said. “I think that is a good message for my drawing students to pull from his presentation.”

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