“Do rather than don’t.” — Irwin Greenberg
I really don’t want to start a trend here—especially not this kind of trend—but again I find myself adding another pair of obituaries. My most beloved art teacher, Irwin “Greenie” Greenberg, died yesterday, at the age of 87. He profoundly touched the lives of everyone who knew him.
I was fortunate enough to have had him as a teacher at the High School of Art & Design. Greenie—as his students and colleagues knew him—was a true inspiration. The adage “those who can’t do, teach” might have suited others, but not Greenie, whose work was, is and ever will be breathtakingly assured, graceful and lovely to behold. He was a master watercolorist and his teaching was commensurate with his talent.
Greenie lost an eye in WWII, but you’d never know it to look at his work. Though he often employed a small spyglass to see the models in better detail, his lack of depth perception never showed in his work, as you can see in the examples here.
Greenie was a beautiful person who shared his gift and his life, through stories told in class, with everyone lucky enough to have known him. I always regretted not staying in touch after I graduated. In a way, since I chose the path of cartooning, I always felt I’d somehow let him down. But that was on me. I’m sure he wouldn’t have felt that way. Greenie didn’t judge.
My uncle, Albert Weatherly, Jr., also died, today. He was 85. He was much more of an enigma to me. He was a concert flutist who left the orchestra to pursue fixing and selling flutes. He ran his own business, Albert Weatherly Flutes, in midtown. He brought an unsurpassed level of craft to servicing flutes that garnered him a clientele of all the biggest names in the field. Jean-Pierre Rampal, James Galway and James Moody were among his patrons, and all held him in the highest regard.
I did my first “professional” (ha!) assignments for him, doing art for t-shirts and tote bags for his business. Another late hero of mine, the cartoonist B. Kliban, had a cartoon called “Nephew Art”, which depicted bad art done by nephews. But it, like some of Kliban’s best work, was a metaphor for bigger, deeper things. That said, it might be my favorite Kliban cartoon, and that I am guilty of having created some “Nephew Art” of my own makes me both proud and humbled.
At thirteen I did a bag that boasted an anthropomorphized flute strutting along, à la Crumb’s “Keep on Truckin’”, only in this case it was “Keep on Flutin’”. Yeah, I know. I did many bags and tees for Uncle Al, and he actually paid me money. That meant a lot to me. It made me feel a bit more legit at an early age.
Al was very hard to know. He was quiet and, as I say, a bit of an enigma. But when he did share I always appreciated it. I never really knew him well, but I’ll miss him. I’ll miss them both.