About a month ago one of my instructors from the Academy passed away following a major car accident. She wasn't just an instructor however. She was THE instructor. Formerly the Department head of the Illustration department, by the time I had reached her class, Barbara had retired from that post for... I honestly don't know but as long as I was at the Academy. Rewind back to the spring of 2000; my first semester. I remember my first semester being relatively uneventful. I learned A LOT but overall I was having little trouble getting A's and B's in all of my classes. At the end of the semester, the Academy was holding its annual spring show, it was there I saw some really impressive student pieces. They were from the Animated Figure Drawing class taught by Barbara Bradley. I remembered that name and thought what a great achievement it would be to be able to get into her class. I didn't really believe I would measure up to all the other classmates but in my very last semester you might say I "snuck" in.
There were probably many more talented and deserving student out there but I was able to play the "it's my last semester" card. I had even tried to petition to get into her class the previous semester to which she responded (looking at my portfolio) "Hmmm..." you could see she was just thinking "oh boy, this one needs a lot of help" but she noticed my enthusiasm and inititive to get in her class. She then asked "is this your last semester?" to which I responded "No." So she suggested I take Clothed Figure 2 or 3. Imagine that! I tried to get into her class having skipped 2 supposedly requisite classes! I wonder if she thought I was incredibly bold or incredibly stupid. I ended up taking Chuck Pyle's Clothed Figure 3 class (which was awesome) and it really did prepare me for Barabara's class. Or so I thought... The first day of Animated Figure Drawing.
I remember her saying, or rather warning us "this class has the work of two entire classes." !!! "expect to spend at LEAST 8 hours per week on your assignments." !!!!!!! If anything, Barbara - heh, I guess I was a no respect punk. I was so used to referring to instructors by their first name it never occured to be to call her Mrs. Bradley which I guess all the old-school students would do - yes, Barbara, or as I would affectionately refer her to as "Yoda" - yes, Barbara or Yoda taught me the value of hard work and just how much effort is required to produce at her high (and I mean extremely high) standards. She also taught me that it is okay to have those high standards. It is in fact good to have those high standards. And she recognized that I was a "weak" student and knew just how hard to push me against those standards so I wasn't being judged at unreasonable levels relative to my skill. She knew where to praise my few strengths. That is a measure of not her artistic ability but her teaching abilities. In that aspect, she surpasses Yoda.
One memory I had was... well she was Yoda but I really didn't fathom my own nickname. One day she was relaying a story from back in the day and she wasn't name dropping or anything. It was just part of her story because well, it happened. Anyways, it was something like "so my friend Norman Rockwell then said to me" and she said it as if we had no idea who Norman "the most famous of all American painters" Rockwell was. As if he was not Norman Rockwell the great American icon and more like Norman Rockwell, just her buddy in the story. It's subtle but it was a definite mark of her humbleness. Something I don't think we'll forget either.
It's too bad I never got to know her. Mostly out of fear and guilt. I often didn't feel like I deserved to have her as a teacher. I "snuck" in afterall. I used the "last semester" card that she herself unwittingly armed me with. The last time I saw her, I was driving downtown and saw her walking up Powell street. I wanted to say hello but confined to my automobile and ignorant to her generousity... well it was far too easy to not say hello so all I'm left to say is goodbye and thank you. Mrs. Bradley, you kicked my butt and I'm a better person for it.
Barbara Bradley 1927 - 2008
Find out more about her
Post Memorial service mingling. It was so great to see all these people together. It was indeed a mini-reunion. I saw lots of people I hadn't seen in awhile and no one was gloomy and despondant. It was a very lively atmosphere.
Mrs. Bradley's specialty was drawing children.
For all those drawers out there slacking off...