Wearing blue jeans, a smudged smock, and round glasses she looks like a mom, but behind the big glasses are artist's eyes-eyes that see the horizon line, and shades of grass-green in a field, and sunset light behind a skyscraper. She is Alice Forman, a studio art teacher at Vassar College.
In Ely's sunny cluttered studio, with easels, tables and chairs circled around the model's platform, artists sketch furiously as Ms. Forman quietly orbits the room peering over shoulders. As another timed sketch begins, she pauses beside a student who stops and looks up timidly for her impression. "That's very good," she says, "You work well when you draw bigger. Why don't you try focusing on just one part of the model's body this time-the legs maybe." The student nods and begins sketching again. "Teaching art is something I've always wanted to do," commented Ms. Forman, but if asked her profession, she would say she is a painter. "As a painter 1 nurture the child in myself. Perhaps that's why I prefer to teach college-age students." She feels that this age group is still in a "stage of formation" and that they are "interesting as people. They question and learn quickly."
Before coming to Vassar, Ms. Forman taught at Maris! College, and worked with older people at Barrett House in Poughkeepsie Students at Vassar seem to feel positive about her as a teacher. Both Carla Borsotti and Jenny Fairservice said that she enhanced their drawing styles without imposing herself on them. Ms. Forman described her teaching method as "guided problems and exploration of means." She said, "I see myself as a resource. I suggest styles from tradition, and outside resources." To create art, she believes a broad education is important. She also said that "all experience is transformable into art--"studying various disciplines as well as seeing the work of artists of various backgrounds, even within the classroom. In suggestion and criticism Ms. Forman said she tries to be positive yet truthful. "
Different artists have different strengths, and grow in different ways," she noted. "There's no right or wrong in art. I don't want uniform products...Creative intuition can be very exciting and I don't want the classroom situation to stifle that." Painting was her ambition long before she became an Art History major at Cornell University. She has also studied art at the Mexican Art Workshop, New York's Brooklyn Museum Art School, and the Art Student's League in New York City. She has exhibited at Kornblee Gallery in New York, and several local galleries. "You are only a painter if there is nothing else you can do. 1 had no choice, Ms. Forman said. She calls herself a "painterly realist." This style "Is not meticulous rendition. It has the force of human personality and vision behind it." She said she is a "product of the ideas and attitudes of the abstract expressionist movement" in that she does not plan her paintings. They emerge "from the process of working." "Painting is painful work and serious play," she said, "The canvas is both a battleground and a playground."