It was 1960. As a ten-year old my favorite T.V. Character was Diver Dan. The figure wasn’t available as a toy or my parents wouldn’t buy one for me. With no other option I sculpted the character, putting as much detail into those eight inches of clay that my limited skill allowed. The imposing diver’s helmet was the most interesting part. My mom raved about how realistic it was when she showed it to family and friends. As a painfully shy youth I was embarrassed, yet encouraged by the unexpected attention.
In the sixth grade I drew maps and illustrations to accompany my literature, history, and geography reports. I also made a couple of topographic relief maps of South America and Africa. My teacher enthusiastically requested to keep them. More encouragement. And extra credit towards my grade.
Fast forward to Junior High School and a book report on Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki. The book fascinated me so much I crafted a detailed wooden model of the reed boat depicted in the book. I had every intention of keeping this model. Yet another teacher took note of my handiwork and pleaded with me to let him have it for a class display. It was bitter parting my work, sweetened only by further encouragement from a teacher.
In High School I created still life’s with oil and ball point pen drawings. I discovered the Surrealists and was immediately smitten. I became obsessed with Salvador Dali’s painting The Persistence of Memory. Dali’s and the Surrealists influence was evident in my paintings for the next couple of years.
Drawing and Design classes at Miami Dade Junior College resulted in several basic assignments. The first was to create a copy of an existing African mask. I managed to scrounge some scrap wood, broom bristles, and a fairly thick tree branch which I cut and hollowed out for the eyes. The tall, striking mask looked authentic and was fun to make. Figure Drawing class proved to be both educational and stimulating. It was a bit of a shock when the first model disrobed. My first female nude was a real challenge in observation and concentration. I rallied my senses and managed to do well with the next few poses.
A connection at public relations company resulted in my closest brush with fame. One of their clients, Ted Nugent, planned to form a band called CROSSBOW and asked for an album cover design. I submitted an image for the cover and was pleased to hear the Motor City Madman wanted to use it. As anyone familiar with Nugent’s career knows CROSSBOW never materialized. (Maybe I should drop him a line asking if he still has my artwork!)
I enrolled at University of West Florida, majoring in Studio Art. I enjoyed Drawing, Painting, and Printmaking/Etching classes. Around this time I created a few pop satirical pieces including Mona Babe; Head,Background and Enigmatic Smile, with Renaissance Shine, based on the Mona Lisa. The painting was stippled and elongated, finished with a shiny orange shellac along with a flat, gaudy, simulated frame. I topped the piece with an exaggerated protruding painting light, its long chain hanging directly in front of Mona Babe’s nose. My next painting was another mixed media piece of the Quaker Oat Man using stippled ink, acrylic paint, matte board relief, vinyl, and velvet tie. To accentuate the piece I replicated the Oat Man’s large ruffles with bags of cooked oats. The weight of the cooked oats caused one of the bags to split, sending oatmeal all over the campus library’s carpet. I replaced the bags and filled them with puffed oats. I also created several simple white on white reliefs made of illustration board, matte board and thick Elmer’s glue. I received purchase prizes for two of the reliefs and graduated Cum Laude with a B.A. degree in Studio Art.
Shortly after graduation I bought my first airbrush. It was a love/hate relationship from the start,; loving the subtle gradations and fine control but hating the paint mixing. Adding to the frustration of stirring and straining paint for the right consistency I spent laborious hours cutting frisket, a masking agent. Airbrushing was a “one step forward two steps back” education. The slightest imperfection could ruin my day but getting the effect I wanted was gratifying.
After honing my skills I created a realistic windsurfing painting for my brother-in-law. It was fun playing with the waves and surf. To get the effect I desired I used a straw filled with liquid frisket and spit it on to the airbrushed surf. Once dry I rubbed it off, airbrushed more, then repeated the process, giving me the desired effect.
In 1974 I decided to write an illustrated children’s book. The story was based on my step-son, Ted, and his adventures and discoveries through nature. The story featured a purple duck-billed dinosaur (nothing like Barney and several years before the purple sensation). The book was very green, environmentally speaking, and I enjoyed doing the illustrations. I collected a few rejection slips. and put it aside. The sting of rejection didn’t sit well with my early 20’s self. Now I know that such is life.
What’s an artist to do with a family to support? Starving artist or teacher? I was no teacher and loved to eat. After a couple of years of odd jobs I joined the U.S.A.F. as an illustrator with the Strategic Air Command. I had my B.A. and expected to go in as an officer. Only there weren’t any officers in the graphic shops so I went enlisted. So much for a higher salary.
I did some cut and dry work with the occasional fun projects. It was now 1976 and I was asked to do a Bicentennial painting for the main gate at the base. This was a very special year, as my son, Jeremy was born. My very own Bicentennial baby, and a major blessing at that. I created a 4’x8’ airbrushed acrylic on tempered Masonite featuring the famous Spirit of ’76 painting’s fife and drum trio, along with a B-52 Bomber flying overhead. I was able to use my airbrush on a few other projects, along with occasional pen & ink drawings. I won a graphics award and later the Air Force Commendation medal, an unexpected and pleasant surprise.
After separating from the Air Force I hit the pavement in Atlanta searching for a job in my field. After a year-long search I landed a job at Genigraphics as a computer artist. Their only requirement was a B.A. in Art with the promise to train on their computer software. We created presentations using their proprietary vector/object-oriented software for clients like Coca Cola, L’erin Cosmetics, and Savannah Corps of Engineers. My life before this was entirely B.C. (Before Computers). I learned quickly and within a year was made a senior artist.
Pensacola was calling. I was able to get a job as an illustrator at the Naval Air Station with the NARF command. I enjoyed this job which involved a variety of visual products in different media. It was roughly 70% conventional media and 30% computer graphics. I won the CHINFO award for first place published information graphics.
After fourteen years the command closed. A job offering came up at Saufley Field as an illustrator for military training manuals. This ended up being 100% computer graphics, and extremely cut and dry. It was a salary. Time flew by and retirement was within sight (and what a beautiful sight it was!)
Now I create what I want. While Jeremy and Jennifer were in China meeting my lovely grand-daughter I stayed at their Georgia home, holding down the fort and taking care of their cats and dogs. While there I created a stippled pen & ink rendering of an Iguana living at the Ron Hyatt Environmental Center named Romeo. The ironically named reptile (in a possibly overly aggressive Klingon mating ritual) bit off a sizeable piece of his mate Juliet’s tail. I enjoyed working on this comic-inspired piece between changing litter boxes and archery.
I’ve had a compulsion to create as long as I can remember. I have a need to work with my hands, to make something physical that expresses some aspect of life. Sometimes the art takes on a life of its own. Maybe it started as an introverted ten-year old child who seldom communicated verbally.