First Wally Hedrick, then Lois Anderson, and now painter Sam Tchakalian have passed into history. Tchakalian, who taught at the San Francisco Art Institute for nearly four decades, died yesterday of complications of leukemia and diabetes.
Tchakalian’s strong personality shines through this remembrance from the Web site of Pete Hubbard, who was his student in the early 1970s: “One anecdote showing Sam’s influence on me: Part of the teaching technique at SFAI was what was called a ‘periodic critique.’ All the students in a class would put up their work and the instructor would go through them and basically eviscerate them. I had what I thought was the greatest painting ever. It was large (over 5 feet high), and I had been working on it for weeks, constantly every day. One of my friends was late for this assignment and didn’t have a painting ready for the critique so he, quick like a bunny, whipped up a little paint sketch of a duck on a piece of sketch paper. We went into the studio and put our pieces up against the wall next to each other. When Sam got to our pieces he laughed because he knew what had just gone down. The sketch was quick and fresh and my painting was heavy and labored and that was the first thing Sam saw. He said, pointing to my labor of love, ‘That fucking duck just kicked that piece of shit right out the window!’ This experience very effectively drove home for me the point that I had to radically loosen up!”