Celebrating the life of John Sevcik

It is with deep sadness that we share news of the recent passing of John Sevcik, a longtime and influential member of Fleisher’s faculty. John passed away on March 1, 2024 after a battle with metastatic lung cancer.

John brought a wide range of teaching experience to Fleisher’s studios, having also taught courses at The Delaware Art Museum, the Cheltenham Center for the Arts, Immaculata University, Delaware College of Art and Design, and Bucks County Community College. His approach to teaching and commitment to the creative journey also reflected his philosophy of life. As John said, “In my oil paintings, I explore certain evocative states created by the energy and expression of painted images. A narrative element is also evident. The balance of enigma and meaning in my work reflect my philosophy of life. In considering the human scene, I remind students that the making of a painting is a journey that remembers others we have taken.”

In John’s case, the journey would include an English Literature degree from Villanova and graduating from the four-year certificate program at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. In addition to being an accomplished visual artist with paintings and drawings exhibited across the country and internationally, he was also a playwright, poet and essayist. His impact on Fleisher was long and lasting, as John joined the faculty nearly two decades ago and supported a wide range of students with his patient and encouraging approach. As a teaching artist, he also remained committed to honing his own craft, honored as a past recipient of the Fred and Naomi Hazell Award (a faculty fellowship at Fleisher established by artist, musician, poet and craftswoman Naomi Hazell to support the artistic growth and excellence of painters working in oils) and contributing work to many of our past Dear Fleisher events to help raise funds for the organization.

 

The Approach of Night, oil on gessoed shirt box, 9.5 x 14 inches

 

Back in 2018, Fleisher student (and current Board Member) Nancy Shell was featured in a post on our blog which touched on the impact of John Sevcik’s guidance as her teacher. As Nancy shared, “John’s class taught me trust … trust in the vision, clarity of the mind’s eye, in the process.” Despite the accolades she had received, Shell says she began to question whether or not she was a “real artist,” and found her insecurities preventing her from initially participating in class. “I literally could not do anything,” she said. “I went to John’s class and for three weeks I just sat there and did nothing. I couldn’t put pen to paper. He talked me through it, he talked me off the wall.”

John will be deeply missed. His legacy lives on through the beautiful work he has shared with us, as well as the enduring impact of his commitment to helping others to develop their own gifts as well.

On Sunday, April 28 from 2–7 pm, Fleisher will be hosting a memorial service to celebrate John Sevcik’s life. In lieu of flowers, we’re encouraging members of the Fleisher community to make contributions to this fund to support John’s wife Lynne as she continues to navigate the medical expenses related to John’s illness. 

A two-person exhibition featuring work by John and Lynne (Campbell) titled Songs of Winter; Songs of a Summer will also be opening at Cerulean Arts in late March. The show runs from March 27 through April 21, with an opening reception on Saturday, March 30 from 2–5 pm.

As John’s former students, colleagues, and friends, please leave your own tributes and stories in the comments field below to become part of this archive honoring his long and lasting impact. (Should you encounter any issues leaving comments on the post, please e-mail your comment to esweeny@fleisher.org and we’ll make sure it is included.) To learn more about John Sevcik’s thoughtfully engaged practice as a visual artist, teacher, poet, and essayist, please discover the rich archives of his own blogs (with some essays exploring the work of other teaching artists at Fleisher):

View from the Studio
Poems for a New Century

In closing, a poem from John’s collection, written in the spring of 2023:

I Would Rise

I thought if I could
I would rise, this day of all days
Sunday on Easter, in the sun
Lit below the cold blue sky.
That was the life of a poet:
The sun and gratitude
The sway of breeze upon the bough
The cemetery silent and of stone
Its obelisks and angels pointing up
To where, as heaven knows,
The birds do fly, but I
Have no more hills to climb
Though I would rise, though I would rise.

– John Sevcik

 

Header image: John Sevcik and his painting Kill Devil Hills (The Wright Bros. Glider No. 3) at the Cheltenham Center for the Arts in 2019.

13 Comments

  1. John was a unique voice, as both a painter and writer, of gentle compassion and understanding, in a world that badly needs just that! He will be enormously missed by all who knew him.

    Posted by Fred Frank Danziger on March 16th, 2024 at 2:11pm

  2. I think of you and him every day Lynne. I think of him as the incredible person and friend he was. But right now at 5am, having reread his poem on the Fleisher post, I’m thinking of what a loss this is to the world of art and to his students. So much heart, intelligence and talent. He sent me a poem about Russia last summer. I was such a small part of his life at this point, yet he reached out from time to time. I can’t believe I will never receive another poem. These feelings from me, a friend now fairly distant. I think of what pain and loss you, his wife, are now living daily. I know these words are cold comfort Lynne but please know I am thinking of you. So much love is coming to you from so many people who realize the enormity of your loss.

    Posted by Michele King on March 18th, 2024 at 9:26am

  3. I am shocked and saddened to hear about John. I had the fortune to be in his class more than once. He was a wonderful painter and teacher. He was the absolute best at interpreting works of art. He saw things the rest of us didn’t. John was encouraging and supportive. He had a great laugh. Several times he was kind enough to share his writing with us. Because of him I look deeper and dig deeper with my own work. He was a very special person. My condolences to his family and friends.

    Posted by Rose King on March 18th, 2024 at 9:29am

  4. John had a powerful way of connecting with people. Our first conversations were Zoom meetings for class planning. Each session moved quickly from logistics (class dates, times and topics) to deeply thought provoking conversation about art, history, aesthetics, and more. Our conversations were so engaging that I would forget we were remote! His presence as an artist and educator were as clear online as they were in person. He exuded empathy and engagement always.

    I am so sad that he is gone and feel incredibly lucky to have met him. His intellect and creativity were irrepressible and will continue to impact all of us with whom he shared his incredible gifts.

    Posted by suzanne l. seesman on March 18th, 2024 at 10:10am

  5. I took his class three times. He was a fine teacher and gentleman. He will be missed.

    Posted by Stuart Glass on March 21st, 2024 at 2:54pm

  6. I studied painting with John for three years about ten years ago. I never met a teacher who was so kind and supportive of me and my work. Though I had never painted before, he encouraged me to follow my intuition, set up my own still life compositions, use whatever colors and techniques, though often unconventional, I needed to achieve my specific vision, and clearly understood what I was trying to express. He recommended venues where I might show my work, and made me feel confident that my work was of value. I was shocked and saddened to hear of his passing, and send my condolences to those who were close to him. We have lost a wonderful teacher and, more important, a very special man, and he will be missed by those of us who are lucky enough to have known him. – Andrea Preis

    Posted by Andrea Preis on March 21st, 2024 at 6:44pm

  7. John was one of my most influential teachers. In his Observation, Memory & Imagination Classes we ( beginners to advanced ) were thriving. I always looked forward to the final critique when I would learn so much about my own work and the work of my classmates.

    And Lynne, John spoke of you with such tenderness and even adoration and today please know that you are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Posted by Kay Mcginty on March 21st, 2024 at 7:49pm

  8. Several years ago I signed up for a painting class at Fleisher with John Sevcik. From the very first class, I was amazed in that John gave an art lecture like no other. He brilliantly taught the subject, but not just from an art perspective. He related the class to so many aspects of life both personally and intellectually. John showed caring and a sense of wonder for the student work, whether it was from an accomplished artist or a beginner. He also shared stories of his life with his dear wife, Lynne, and tried to get to know many of aspects of the student’s life and perspective, not just their artwork. He also encouraged people to excel in the style that they wanted to. In my case I’ve painted bold and modern, not John’s style at all, and yet he appreciated them and taught me so much, that he was able to encourage me to do more paintings than I ever thought possible. One painting that John encouraged me to work on took a top prize at Fleisher that year and would absolutely have never happened without him. I took many many classes with him and every year they had a fresh approach. He became both a caring friend and mentor. Both he and Lynne’s work is breathtakingly beautiful – and intertwined with their teaching and caring for others and each other. I can’t write a tribute to John without including Lynne because they were truly one. I feel honored to know them. I am saddened by not only John’s loss but that future students will not be able to have him as their teacher. I’m sad but I’m so very grateful and appreciative of having known John Sevcik.

    Posted by Anonymous on March 21st, 2024 at 9:39pm

  9. I took John’s class in 2018, and I learned a lot from him. It was a short but important moment in my journey as an artist. Some of my favorite paintings were started in his class. One of them I was actually working on when I learned of his passing.

    Thanks for your time, John.

    You showed me how to say the things I couldn’t intuit
    To find the voice inside my hands, the castles in the mess
    Those castles and the waves crashed down and hatched a thousand eggs
    Now you’re gone and I’ll never get to show you what I made

    Posted by Claire Coslop on March 22nd, 2024 at 12:06am

  10. In 2007, I took a painting class at Fleisher with John Sevcik. Little did I know that he would become my ongoing teacher, and also caring friend. From the first class it was evident that John taught as no other I had ever experienced. He was such a beautifully accomplished artist and achieved such greatness as a painter, along with his equally accomplished and caring wife Lynne as well.

    They were like one and he shared that. In his class, everyone’s work thrilled him, even people who had never picked up a paintbrush before equally with the very experienced. He did not impose his will, instead inspiring everyone to continue painting in the style that expressed them, and giving space to work on their own as well. One year he encouraged me so much that I took one of the top prizes at Fleisher. To take a class with John was also in a sense to take a class with Lynne, in that their work and their lives were so intertwined, and he shared that with the class. I took many many classes with John and his lectures were so intricate and always, always so helpful, rich and colorful and slightly different from before. I am so saddened by his loss, but also at the thought that no new students moving forward will be taught by him. So many loved him and for good reason.

    Posted by Bruce Segal on March 22nd, 2024 at 9:09am

  11. John was a great teacher and we had lots of fun engaging in conversations and debating our individual perspectives on creating art. I haven’t been in Philly for a number of years so I haven’t had the opportunity to see John in a long time. Still he was one of those people/educators who will be with me for ever!!!

    Posted by Robin Halpren-Ruder on March 22nd, 2024 at 9:14am

  12. John was my teacher and my friend. Always so gently encouraging. I called his class, which I took several times in different forms/titles, “Art and Life with John.” And poetry, too. Always poetry in its many guises.

    Posted by Rita Bernstein on March 28th, 2024 at 5:29pm

  13. John, You are cherished and missed!

    I had the good fortune of finding Fleisher about 12 years ago, and wandering the building to discover John’s class soon after. I was so excited to find him and his way of teaching. His studio was a lively scene of talking and painting, imagination and encouragement. Could I join his next class? Sure!

    Art reveals your soul – John knew how to navigate souls and artists with encouragement, and creative expansiveness. John shared his magic with each artist, along with an incredibly rich knowledge of history, art, politics and precise words! Often he told stories during studio, connecting all these things, and drawing us into his wonder.

    It’s Easter morning as I write this. I just saw John and his wife Lynne’s show at Cerulean. His spirit so exquisitely expressed in his paintings – that stays with me – what can’t be put into words but the heart recognizes: we are a part of the mystery, the beauty, and connected to all things and each other – we are in the stars, and the light at sunset.

    I will always feel grateful to know John and his wife Lynne. John greatly shaped my painting – he let me be, and helped me find my path as an artist. I hope to honor him by sharing encouragement with other artists, to sustain the community he created, to nourish each other, to find the wonder!

    Posted by Dickie Lynn Gronseth on March 31st, 2024 at 12:24pm

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