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Michael Sickler

Michael Sickler, a professor at Syracuse University, has 30 years' experience teaching drawing and painting, making him among the Department of Art staff with longest tenure.

A native of Wisconsin, Sickler completed undergraduate studies at Layton School of Art, and graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin, both in Milwaukee. He came to Syracuse University for his first teaching job out of graduate school, and has remained at SU, teaching all levels of drawing and painting, and serving as chairman of the art department for 10 years.

Sickler works in the abstract expressionist vein, creating energetic, large-format paintings that incorporate elements of collage. The paintings involve no preliminary drawing, but they call on the skills of drawing, and Sickler does practice drawing as an end in itself. Lately he has created landscape-based drawings that evolve into pure abstraction.

Sickler puts a high value on sensitivity and expression, and strives to cultivate these qualities when students present the necessary potential. "In the beginning, you need to develop hand and eye skills," he says. "You need to be able to draw what you see. So I teach from observation at first. At the more advanced levels, the challenge is to get students to loosen up."

That loosening requires innate sensitivity and ability to connect with a subject-attributes on the wane in today's digital age, says Sickler. "I think a big interrupter is the Internet. I'm absolutely convinced of it. People are looking at a freaking screen all day. There's a barrier between life - actual, real life - and what people are seeing when they sit down in front of a screen for hours."

In addition to his work in expressive painting, Sickler writes poetry, and is a long standing member of the Syracuse poetry community. He has published poetry in magazines across the country, has published two chapbooks, and serves as associate editor of Comstock Review, a Syracuse-based poetry magazine in its 21st year.