Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I have noticed that as I progress in age I find myself reflecting back on my life and what were the moments that left the most significant impact and that stayed in my memory. Most recently it has been my experiential learning years in commercial art school. I attended The Burnley School of Professional Art, founded in 1946, owned and directed by Jess Cauthorn when he purchased it in 1959 (Mr. Cauthorn purchased the Burnley School of Professional Art, and worked alongside William Cumming, Fred Griffin, Austin Dwyer, and many others in creating the premier commercial arts college in the Pacific Northwest.) and since 1982 is now known as The Art Institute of Seattle. During those first three years of the 70's studies in commercial art, design and illustration under the instructive encouragement of Bill Cumming, Fred Griffin, Austin Dwyer, Jess Cauthorn and other prominent northwest artists, as well as private studies in the fine arts, provided me with a wonderfully broad background in various disciplines and media. It was such a privilege to study in such an enriching, friendly and intimate atmosphere with these NW icons.

Just last month I sadly learned that 2 of my favorite and most revered instructors, Bill Cumming and Fred Griffin have past on from this world. Bill last November and Fred just in April. I will always remember them as I knew them then in 1970-72 (as in B/W photos above). I gleaned so much insight into the realms of art and graphic design from these two free spirited artists during my years at Burnley and small private classes from Fred. All of which I utilize so much in my creative process/work and in life and will never lose.

I also learned recently that Bill had written a book back in the 80's. Of course, upon this knowledge, I had to acquire my own copy. It is titled: Sketchbook-A Memoir of the 30's & The Northwest School.
It is autobiographical covering many years from his early 20's as well as looking into the lives and goings-on of all the artist icons within the NW School, such as Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, Guy Anderson and Ken and Margaret Callahan. It is quite a first hand history with personal insights of the art scenes in Seattle and the Northwest and his accounts of his involvment in the WPA Art Project during the depression. He writes with clever humor and shrewdness. A delightful and eye-opening read.

To Fred and Bill's spirits...thank you both for the illumination you brought to my years of learning and to my life as an artist, not to mention the world of art. You will always be remembered and missed dearly.

William Cumming, a member of the noted Northwest School of artists, died Nov. 22, 2010.
Photo Credit Annette Bauman
William Cumming 1917-2010
A celebrity in the local art scene and best known as the youngest and longest standing member of the Northwest School with Guy Anderson, Kenneth Callahan, Morris Graves and Mark Tobey. He called himself "The Willie Nelson of Northwest Painting".

Doug HienLien
Fred Griffin 1931-2011
Artist and graphic designer, creating in every moment. Prolific in every sense of the word.

Here are some quotes, the first one I particularly relate to, especially the last sentence: "Get the mark down. Put your germinal thoughts into visual impacts. Notes, sketches, exercises in finding, filing, assembling and storing for visual feedback/scanning. Here is the priority, the calisthenics make all the difference. Here is the visual thinker, not the verbal thinker." FG

Well, this one hits home, too:"I am the Fantasy Archeologist. The investigator of the visible. My paintings tie together years of metamorphic work that range from seed pods to whole orchestrated walls each part of a series celebrating Nature’s magical glimpses. The jewel-like hints that mean a vast untapped treasure lies within the earth’s surface. The archeologist begins to brush aside the surface to get to the source. I want to give the viewer the excitement of that moment - to give him the desire to uncover - peel away - to draw him through my paint strokes and surface edges. I want each viewer to feel the fascination when a glowing fossil has been unearthed. I want him to begin to read the romance of the painting." FG

And this: "I believe a painting should have an attractive quality from afar. The image should have a thoughtfulness that reads further into the painting, that rewards the viewer who wants to think about it. In other words – attraction with meaning." FG

I recently discovered a web-site of Fred's work that I've never found googling in the past. It is so fantastic to reference so much of his work. This piece above is reminiscent of a piece I did years ago titled "Running, Laughing, Wild and Free", where I used old cedar shingles in the same fashion...I didn't use spent sparklers, a nice use, but I did use very long pine needles in much the same way. If I can find an old photo of this piece I will post it. Minds think alike...kindred spirits.

I hope you will take some time to read about these 2 amazing individuals and view their artwork at the links I provided above. When you view Fred's vast body of work on his site you will recognize why I related to him, his approach and reverence to nature as I have over the years. I will miss knowing they are still in our world, but they left behind a wonderful legacy, visual and otherwise.