A crisp October day in the Hill country surrounding scenic Fredericksburg finds a group of fifteen students huddled in a mechanic’s garage-cum-high-ceilinged studio on the outskirts of town trying to shake off the early morning air’s raw edge. After a short mid-morning break, Gregg Kreutz pulls his class back together – no easy task, when he is actively involved in the animated conversation.
Kreutz – the New York artist known for his stunningly detailed still lifes and architecturals – is obviously an outstanding teacher. His students find him easily approachable and joke with him casually. At the same time, they hold him in high esteem; as he paints, the class stills to attentive watchfulness, tape recorders and cameras whirring as they take in every word.
Three years ago, Bill and Nancy Bush bought the old garage in hopes of founding a Hill Country art school that would attract instructors and students from across the country. Converting the garage – complete with grease pit and metal overhead doors – proved a challenge, but with the addition of a large window for north light, an air conditioner and an extra bathroom and kitchenette, the Bushes were ready for business.
“We’ve been fortunate to have had Gregg teach each year that we’ve been operating,” says Bill, “We knew we were taking a risk in opening what we hoped to be a hub for artist workshops in South Central Texas; but with enthusiastic, nationally recognized artists like Gregg, we have been quite successful.”
On this day, teacher and students focus on a still life arrangement of roses, lemon wedges and a hammered brass pot. A flexible painter, Kreutz shifts, rearranges, repositions, blends, and repaints, responding all the time to comments and questions from his class. “In a demo, it feels like everyone is painting together – I pick up vibes,” Kreutz remarks, and he certainly respects his students, as he asks periodically what – in the painting – needs fixing. “Am I happier? I think I’m a little happier,” Kreutz mutters after an especially nice touch-up.
Kreutz makes no secret of his approach to beginning a new painting: “Placement, background, shadow and light.” And though his class is relaxed and low-key, he moves deliberately through each phase. Initially, he paints “sloppily” (his own word choice) to keep his perspective broad – “I like to keep the contrast of looming and little shapes as I’m deciding what goes where.” Kreutz struggles with the wilting roses this afternoon and remarks to the class: “I’m petal’ing my way through, hoping I’ll wind up with roses.” One step at a time. he mixes serious paint talk – “lose some of those hard lines,” “Is the light value too strong under the table?” – with light-hearted banter: “If it looks good someplace do it lots of places!”
The week-long session at the Fredericksburg Artists’ School (FAS) ended with exchanges of phone numbers and promises to call and write. The risk that Bill and Nancy Bush took three years ago has definitely paid off – for the Bushes, for the students and for the artists. “I look forward to coming here every year,” Kreutz says, “It’s a needed respite from the New York weather and mind set.”