Howie Lee Weiss will speak at 7 p.m. Friday, July 20, at the Hultquist Center as part of the Visual Arts Lecture Series, though he wants to be clear that he doesn’t lecture in the traditional sense, and that the talk will be “informal.”
“I really want the students to participate,” Weiss said. “If they have questions, they can shout them out.”
Weiss, a drawer and painter, said when his first- grade teacher asked his class what they wanted to be when they grew up, he said: “An artist.” Since then, he said, he’s never considered doing anything else.
“I remember coloring books and things that all little kids do, and I just really liked them more than the average kid,” Weiss said. “So I stayed with it, and my mom noticed I really enjoyed it. … She made it her business to find me art classes, and that escalated.”
Raised in Pennsylvania, Weiss earned an undergraduate degree from the Maryland Institute College of Art and completed his master’s degree at Yale University’s School of Art and Architecture.
Weiss has taught at MICA for nearly 30 years and serves as coordinator of the school’s senior thesis program. Every summer since 2000, he’s led a group of art students to coastal Sorrento, Italy, and more recently the landlocked Umbria, Italy, region.
“When I was in Italy, some of the imagery I was living with factored into my work later,” Weiss said. “But while I was there, I was absorbing it.”
Weiss’ drawings can be divided into different portfolios, named “Wonder,” “Flourish,” “Details,” “Ensemble,” “Origin” and “Harvest.” Each collection of images varies in size and subject matter, though all, according to Weiss’ website, “can look cartoonish, but are created with a seriousness and formality.”
“Despite the rigors of the graphic style, there is always a warm feeling of being handmade and heartfelt,” the website reads.
Traditionally a painter, Weiss has garnered widespread acclaim for and interest in his drawings, which are done with charcoal. He started developing them after breaking down and exploring different aspects of the painting process.
“In painting, usually you have to start with a drawing or some fundamental thing underneath the painting,” Weiss said. “I started to find that I really liked that aspect.”
This was post-grad school for Weiss and well into his career.
“I started to see it wasn’t just an underneath sketch anymore,” Weiss said. “Then I had to really develop it and turn it into a finished product. I mean, they’re kind of like paintings.”
Graphic posters have influenced Weiss’ work, and he collects some as a hobby. Weiss said he’s intrigued by signs and symbols on the graphics — how multiple advertisements for the same product are all designed differently.
“I love variation,” Weiss said.
His wife, Lisa Weiss, spent four summers at Chautauqua’s School of Music as a teen, but this is Weiss’ first time on the grounds. While teaching at the School of Art, Weiss said he’s encouraging his students to branch out and meet others outside their own school.
“Sometimes you get locked in your own world of discipline,” Weiss said.
During his time at Chautauqua, Weiss has worked in journals, sketching what he calls “quick doodles.” Aside from the varied porch styles around the grounds, Weiss said he’s not sure exactly what has inspired him here yet.
“Sometimes it’s not immediate,” Weiss said. “Maybe talk to me in a year,and then I’ll tell you. … What happens is, a lot of things drop away, and then you’re left with the essence of the memory of a place.”