By Jim McCloskey
I’ve known David Tisherman and his work for more than 20 years.
Back when I worked for another industry publication, there was a time when that magazine had a separate section (complete with its own sub-cover) for stories related to spas. More often than not, the projects depicted on those interior covers were David’s: It was a decision that had mostly to do with the fact that he designed, built and took good photographs of custom concrete spas at a time when most of the artwork available to me was of plain, redwood-skirted portable spas dropped onto drab, unexpressive decks.
Always simplifying the choice was the fact that his work was beautiful. Even two decades and more ago, David’s selection of colors and materials and attention to detail set his projects apart to such an extent that I didn’t mind the appearance of bias that came along with using his photographs with such frequency.
Not much has changed in the years since: David has continued to do wonderful work, record it meticulously and send it my way for publication – now in WaterShapes.
What readers of this magazine have seen of his work through our first 100 issues is without question the output of an accomplished artist. It’s true that he can be (to use a self-description in which he takes great delight) an arrogant, elitist pig, but to me that brashness is more than matched by his willingness to share, mentor and teach – and even more by his ability to provoke other professionals to step up and do their best.
Through the years, I’ve had the occasion to meet more than a few students from his days of teaching drawing classes at UCLA – a time that reaches back many years before his association with either WaterShapes or Genesis 3. I’ve always been impressed by the fact that, although almost every one of them zings him about having been a tyrant, I’ve never encountered any who hadn’t been inspired by what he taught them or weren’t still devoted to him as teacher and friend.
More recently, I’ve seen that same dynamic emerge from countless Genesis 3 classrooms. Yes, he can be opinionated and occasionally merciless in critiquing student work, but by and large even those he singles out for rough treatment see where he’s coming from, perceive the constructive spirit behind the acerbity and cut David slack because they perceive the sincerity of his desire to help. He may act like a wild boar at times, but he can’t completely hide the heart of gold.
As teachers go, David Tisherman may be as unlike Joseph McCloskey in methodology as anyone could be, but the outcomes are the same: Just as my father’s students grew under his tutelage, David’s students grow in sometimes profound ways as they open themselves to the power of his convictions, the value of his insights and the inspired way he examines a world where knowledge, education, quality and professional performance truly matter and watershaping aspires to be an art form.
In defining criteria for recipients of The McCloskey Prize, David is someone we always had in mind: He distinctly embodies the notion that watershaping as a whole is best served when information flows freely and every professional has access to resources, tools and concepts that define the practical and philosophical differences between mediocrity and excellence.
Please join me in congratulating David Tisherman and in hoping this recognition encourages him to mellow out – for a couple hours, anyway.