When I was asked for a commentary on Roger as a teacher, my first thought was: "Okay, was I any more perceptive than any of the multitudes that had the pleasure of being in a Crossgrove painting class?" Clearly, no. But I do have an additional perspective.
Roger made sure that we all were grounded in the technical aspects of paint. He led all of us (sometimes kicking and screaming--silently) through an impressive variety of problems. There were still-life exercises in light/shadow, color, transparency/ reflection/opacity (who can forget the set-up with a broken loaf of crusty bread and a wine glass full of red wine on a shining slab of marble?). This one is especially memorable for those of us who thought we could sneak a quick swallow. That's when we found out Roger had been pouring the wine back into the bottles at the end of each class for years.
Roger had us paint in a variety of genre, from still life to the model and from trompe l'oeil to Cubism. We knew Roger as a firm but friendly instructor with a ready laugh and a dry sense of humor, but it wasn't until five or six years later that I really understood what a unique teacher he was.
After I joined the Pratt faculty, Roger and I co-taught the painting class for years. The Roger that none of us had fully appreciated came in to the classroom on Sunday afternoons in order to set up elaborate environments for the models. He would get up several hours before dawn to go into Manhattan to the Fulton Fish Market where he would select baskets of fish, one at a time, for their color, or to the flower markets for his painting set-ups.
In my 37 years at Pratt, I never met another teacher who invested so much of his own time for those students who were lucky enough to be assigned to his classes. And, I never once heard him complain about those hours taken out of his own studio time in order to prepare for a class. In a real sense we also were his paintings.
After all these years I still find myself using Roger as a model, and that probably says it all.
Jos. A. Smith