Monday, November 4, 2013

Stretching out into illustration... (part 2)

    Like most budding artists I doodled in class. As a junior in high school I wore #22 playing for the 'Wildcats' and doodled while taking notes.

The illustration below was done while I was a sophomore in high school; executed with a metal quill pen point dipped in an old fashioned ink bottle. The image is from a black and white photo I had seen in a magazine. I kept the illustration for about ten years in a drawer until I ran across this paragraph in a book. The image and text blended together perfectly and I framed them both together. This type of sensitivity and my animation training helped me see the value in telling a story minus text, through my pen and ink illustrations.

 My pen and ink subject matter typically represents the 1930's era south. My mom, Mamie told me many interesting stories from her childhood. She was one of 14 children growing up on a farm in Mississippi. I have also talked with other older people about their experiences in the south and I'm always on the lookout for that story of the south to illustrate in pen and ink. 

Back to high school-  the lady in the picture to the right, is Ms Dorothy Clemmons, the teacher who flipped my switch into quick sketch mode. In 1966 she encouraged me to carry a sketchbook at all times. Needless to say I took her advice. This picture was taken after I had been asked in the art class she taught to, "get the hell out and never come back," were her exact words. I can hear those words as plainly as if she said them yesterday.

This is what  led up to the incident...After class, the day before I was asked me to leave her room, she asked me to to wash some paint out of brushes that some other students had left. I looked at the brushes and without a word, walked out of the classroom.

Ms Clemmons had broadened my artistic horizons by taking me and other students on field trips, most notably to the Art Center College of Design in LA and making it possible for me to enroll in Art Center's Saturday high school program. In addition to being exposed to her unique teaching methods which included exposing the students to various art styles, participating in lively art discussions and much, much more. At the beginning of class the next day, I took my usual front row seat . She walked over to my desk, stood in front of it and the rest is 'my' history. When she asked, no demanded me to leave her class room, I immediately understood where her frustration emanated from. Those were the days when art and music instruction were taken for granted. In elementary school we had art  and music instrument instructors come to our schools once a week (for free- part of the curriculum), my grand kids don't have such luxuries and I did not make the most of that golden opportunity.

A few months before my infamous exit from art class I had done a pen and ink illustration that Ms Clemmons entered in a regional competition. The piece won an award  and was sent back east for further judging, ultimately winning a national award. The award arrived after my dismissal from class. Here is the newspaper clipping from the above press shot with principal Leonard Morris, with Ms Clemmons looking on, presenting me with the plaque from NY. I'm not quite sure her smile is genuine or posed for the publicity photo. She had not spoken to me since the incident, during the photo shoot or since.
 I did apologize to her. The day after my dismissal from class I talked to my football coach, Dick Robbins. His advice was for me to go to her, face up to my callousness and apologize.
 I went to my regular art class period (open period for me now), asked if I could speak to her, she ushered me into a small room adjoining the class room. She sat down and I across from her. I looked her in the eyes and said "I'm sorry"...she nodded and pointed towards the door. That was the last of my high school art instruction.

1 comment:

  1. Nice story. Despite what happened you were very mature to apologize and more importantly, continue with you pursuits in art. An experience like that could have made some aspiring art students to become disenchanted. So glad you stayed in the game.