So, I was Kurt Cobain’s Highschool Art Teacher…
Abstract artist Robert Hunter writes on his Artspan site, “Art is fun and good for the soul! This is a solid doctrine to live by and helped me through years of teaching thousands of high school students, including Kurt Cobain.”
Hunter was kind enough to answer a few questions about what Cobain was like as a young art student.1. What grade(s) was Cobain in when you taught him?Kurt came to Aberdeen High School as a transfer from nearby Montesano. He was enrolled in basic art classes and commercial art Sophomore year and his Junior year. He was to take more art his senior year but dropped out.
2. Did he seem to enjoy art? What was his style like?Kurt loved Art!!! He was a prolific drawer even after he left high school. His style was somewhat of hard-edge realism with a strong cartoonish bent to it. Some of his art work from high school can be viewed at the EMP Museum in Seattle.3. You say that “Working with young people for almost 27 years left me with some of my most memorable moments; that vital exchange that happens including problem solving, active coaching and counseling, and sharing perspectives on life.” Do you have any memories of teaching Cobain that you can share?Kurt was very quiet, for the most part. I enjoyed working with him using the airbrush. He seemed to delight in making colorful “spider” forms by spraying compressed air at blobs of ink. He also had a distinct fetish for drawing Smurfs. He must have drawn hundreds of these, seen attacking each other with spears and bows & arrows.4. You say, in talking about your own artwork, “Color and how it interacts with line, shapes, texture is of infinite interest to me. While some compositions may start with a graphite or charcoal sketch on canvas, currently I use a ‘free-flow’ pattern of gesso squeeged across the canvas. This prepares the work for the ‘bones’ of the project–suggesting shapes or a certain feel. Next comes the introduction of a dominant color, such as indo-orange, or a sea-foam green.” It’s funny because my brother used to quote the Nirvana line, “Aqua seafoam shame.” Do you remember if this is a color you associated with Cobain, or he particularly enjoyed using?Most of Kurt’s portfolio was made up of black and white drawings (ink or graphite). The few color pieces he completed were complementary colors, with red/green being favored by him. *Note: The Fender “Jagstang,” made for Kurt, is produced in a sea-foam green.
5. Do you remember any advice you gave Cobain?Somedays during art class Kurt would provide a running commentary/critique of rock music being played on a local Aberdeen station. His comments could be extremely sarcastic and negative. At times like this I had to remind him of the alternative–no music at all! ( Like many art teachers I used music to facilitate a better environment–I sure didn’t want to turn off the radio!) Over-all Kurt and I had a positive, creative relationship. We both had similar interests: music and art. His skills as a young artist were awesome; he could draw very well, plan and complete original compositions, and explain/articulate his finished drawings / paintings during critique.