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Students Remember Jim Burford

Kabuki by Jim Burford
Kabuki by Jim Burford

As many Art League students know, our friend and longtime instructor, Jim Burford, passed away in July. There was a Memorial Mass held September 17 at St. Charles Borromeo in Arlington, which included remembrances from some of his students printed in the program. We thought we would share those for anyone who couldn’t be there.

Anonymous: I took my first studio art class with Jim at The Art League five years ago. I have never taken a drawing class and had low expectations regarding my abilities. That changed quickly. Jim nurtured me and the other students in the class. Nothing we did was ever bad. His positive attitude, superb teaching skills, and constant encouragement helped me achieve more than I ever expected. I moved on to oil painting after that first drawing class and have experienced so much joy in the act of creating art. I had hoped to take another class with Jim this fall, but he won’t be at the Torpedo Factory. Hard to imagine. However, he will always be an inspiration to me and other students as we remember his instructions, jokes, and his tales of memorable moments in art history. God bless you, Jim, and your family.

Wayne Morrissey, The Art League Saturday Morning Abstract Art Class: After retirement, Jim Burford rekindled my passion for creating Art, and in particular painting. I had never met another person so well versed in his field. I was always amazed how he could look at my works — seeing me struggling with an issue — and suggest a particular painter or painters’ works who had perfected what I was trying to achieve. I am also proud to have more than a few of Jim’s brush strokes here and there in most of my paintings. Since attending Jim’s classes through The Art League at the Torpedo Factory, his help has not only enhanced my artwork but also inspired me to move ahead and address future obstacles with more insight. For me, no one will ever replace Jim’s teaching style and personal attention. He will be sorely missed.

Susan Murany, The Art League Saturday Morning Abstract Art Class: Deepest sympathies to Jim’s family and to all of us really. I know we all have our own “Jim” stories and I will attempt to honor him here. Jim was my beloved mentor, teacher and friend. He found in me and nurtured a creative side that had been dormant for years. He also created an artist community in DC that I could have never imagined myself being a part of.

He believed in my talent when no other instructor did. He knew just what to say about a painting, how to say it so I would listen, and as I often told him, he was 99% right. He found a creative side I didn’t believe existed. My home is full of over a decade of this lovely man, exemplified in the paintings he had a hand in creating. If anyone had ever told me that I would be a part of an artist’s community years ago, I would never have believed it. But Jim did that. He created out of our Saturday morning Art League School class at the Torpedo Factory an amazing group of people that I still call friends. I don’t remember him NOT supporting a student — from attending/giving parties, taking us on field trips, coming to the annual class Nationals game and attending student art openings — and we weren’t his only class. I can never tell him this again and my classmates are likely tired of hearing it, but it made him smile every time. With exception of my family, he’s the man I’ve had the longest relationship [with] ever ­– 14 years. Why? Because we saw each other (only) weekly and shared ourselves with others. He is so missed!

Marymount University is also holding a memorial exhibit of Jim Burford’s work through October 9 (details here).

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