The History of Me

 I was up in the attic the other day looking for a baby gate to use to keep the dog out of the bathroom where he likes to go to snack on kitty litter.  I looked behind some boxes and found a big black portfolio.  I dragged it into the bedroom.  Inside was the history of me--my artwork and writing from the time I was in first grade, way back in...1973?  I got quite a chuckle looking through the torn and yellowed pages.

Like most artists I had very inauspicious beginnings.

Mom on left, Dad in the middle, me on the right.  That's our dog Punky toward the bottom.  Not sure what the "7777" at the bottom is.  I clearly had some perspective issues as my dad is 6 feet 2 inches tall.

 This is one of my favorites, a piece I did for my first grade Open House.  That's my teacher (Mrs. Schuster I think) in the middle.  She was especially fond of the piece and hung it over the door.  I was very proud.

My first exhibit piece, 1973

 Over the years I refined my style, and built a reputation as one of the better artists in my school--not really hard to do when there are only 60 kids in your class.

Spirit wall sketch, 1983

 I began to study the human anatomy at great depth.

Extra credit for Anatomy class because I was getting a C. 1984.

 These are just to prove I really can draw people.

Madonna.  I have no idea why I drew this, I don't even like Madonna. 1986.

Stephen Crane.  Most of you know him as the author of "The Red Badge of Courage", but he was also a pretty decent poet.  I was convinced for awhile that I was him reincarnated and was sure I would die from TB when I was 29. 1987.

 But people just didn't do "it" for me.  I tried my hand at landscapes, but really didn't feel the connection there either.

Winter mountain scene.  I think those are some kind of sheep on the mountain behind the cabin.  God knows what was going on in that cave.  Circa 1977

 I eventually found my passion in the animal kingdom.  Like most kids I loved animals and had thought I would be a vet when I grew up.  At least being a self-taught artist has resulted in significantly lower student loan payments.

Horse, circa 1977.  I think it looks a bit like Linda Carter from Wonder Woman, one of my mom's favorite shows.

 As I got older I began to refine my skills, but something was missing.  Like eyes.

Lion, circa 1979

 My big break came in the spring of 1980.  I had tested into a program at our school called CAT (Creative and Academically Talented).  For one class period per week per marking period a select group of kids got to take something other than social studies or math.  Things like Astronomy and Architecture were suddenly within my reach.  A whole world had opened up!  One day during a lesson about Greek architectural columns I was flipping through a Sierra Club magazine when I saw this advertisement for a poster.

"Cougar" by Albert Earl Gilbert.  Yes, I actually saved the ad from the magazine.
It changed my life.  (OK, in reality my life didn't change for another 24 years, but at least my art got better.)   Mrs. Fisher, who was a teacher from the roaring metropolis of Ann Arbor (or so it seemed to me) showed me how to break a subject down into its parts, triangles and  squares and circles.  I took that information and drew this:

"Cougar Redux" by Marie Rust, 1980

  Mrs. Fisher was astonished.  So much so that she took the original, had slides made, and sent it off to Who's Who of American High School Students, where it was published in 1980.  I never got the original back so I drew another one.

That day a monster was created.  I couldn't stop drawing.  I took a few art classes in high school where I learned about shading and such, and I refined my style. 

Tiger, 1984.  And look, it has eyes!

But I was convinced that a person could not earn a living as an artist, so I never pursued it as a career.  I kept drawing as a hobby, but never grew as an artist until I lost my job as a photo lab technician in 2004 and was forced to look for other means of earning an income.  I turned to the only other thing I knew--my art.

Once I started doing shows and listening to what people were saying about my work, I put away the graphite pencils that I had used for over 25 years and switched to colored pencil and ink.

I think the change has been for the good.

"Tiger Wise", 2009.

So the moral of this story is to never give up.  Never give up doing what you love, what moves you, what gets inside your soul and shakes you up.  Never lose sight of beauty, of grace, of passion.  Whether it's art, or music, or needlepoint, or poetry or some other thing, never push it too far to the side.  You never know when you might want it, or when it might want you, to do something amazing.