I know of 3 Norman Rockwell Museums*, but only one Murray Tinkelman. The best of the Norman Rockwell Museums, the one in Stockbridge, Mass, bestowed the honor of “Artist Laureate” on Murray Tinkelman this weekend. He is only the third person to receive the honor, after artists Barbara Nessim and David Macaulay.
Tinkelman’s distinctive pen and ink drawings have gained gold medals from the Society of Illustrators, The NY Art Directors Club, and the Society of Publication Designers. Tinkelman began his illustration career in 1951 inking backgrounds for Sheena of the Jungle Comics. “Just vines and leaves, they never let me draw Sheena,” he said. Now in his 80’s, the man is still as sharp as a push-pin.
Murray Tinkelman has taught hundreds of illustration students at Parsons School of Design, Syracuse University, and now at the Hartford Low Residency MFA program. Bob Dahm, a 2007 grad of the Hartford program, rightly calls Murray “a walking encyclopedia of illustration.”
I learned that Murray is color blind. He jokes that he prefers the term “chromatically challenged.” Perhaps this explains why his most iconic work is black and white, done with a technical pen and india ink. His Knight on the Rhinoceros was on exhibit at the Rockwell Museum. The drawing is surprisingly large, about 20 inches square. It won the Society of Illustrators Gold Medal in 1971 and led to editorial work for the op-ed pages of New York Times, the Washington Post, and Atlantic Monthly.
His wife and partner, Carol Tinkelman was by his side during the event, as were their daughters and grandkids. Murray Tinkelman has a lot of accolades on his resume, but it was clear that he was touched by his new title bestowed by The Rockwell Museum: Artist Laureate.
Illustration superstars attended the gala award ceremony, including Istvan Banyai, Kinuko Craft, and William Low. Mark McMahon, who taught with Murray in the 90’s drove out with his wife Carolyn from Chicago. But, Bob Dahm certainly came the greatest distance – from Dubai!
Many former students, now teachers, were there. Jack Tom and Cora Lynn Deibler came from Connecticut. Deibler is a Kutztown U grad who earned her MFA with him at Syracuse. She recalled Tinkelman forcefully insisting (“He nearly grabbed my lapels!”) that she never neglect her own creative work for the sake of teaching. That jibes with my first Tinkelman sighting. In 1972 I took continuing ed illustration classes at Parsons in NYC. I never studied with him, but I saw him working in his faculty office on a massive line drawing during his breaks between classes.
I am grateful for the pleasure of carpooling to the event with the irrepressible Scranton-based illustrator, Ted Michalowski. During the drive to and from Massachusetts, Ted regaled me with legends of Tinkelman.
* NOTE: Years ago I visited the Norman Rockwell Museum of Philadelphia. It is now long gone. I’ve also visited the Norman Rockwell Museum of Vermont in Rutland. It is a sweet little place with some memorabilia and quality reproductions of Rockwell’s work. The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass, however, is the real deal. This was my first visit. The museum is substantial and houses an impressive collection of original Norman Rockwells. The view from the grounds of the museum is postcard perfect.