Monthly Archives: March 2016

Chapter 3 – Route 44

Eugene Bavinger was the primary painting professor at OU and had been so since 1947. He was a very soft-spoken man with a world of experience behind him. I met him as my professor for an advanced painting course. I quickly realized that there was a lot to learn from him. As I mentioned before Bavinger had been around a long time, thirty plus years. You would probably expect that he would be very set in his ways and a bit “old school.” You would be wrong, he was like a kid and extremely in tune with the latest art movements. He had been a pioneer in the use of acrylic paint and was constantly researching the chemistry of acrylic paint additives. I mentioned earlier that OU pushed you into larger and grander work; Bavinger was a key to making this affordable. He set up an Art Department store for painting supplies. Through this store, the Department would buy bulk 100-foot rolls of raw canvas in 72-inch widths. The students could purchase the canvas by the yard at a fraction of the retail cost. In addition to the canvas, the school would purchase fifty-five gallon drums of polymer medium directly from the manufacturer and sell to the students in gallon quantities. In class we learned the craft of making our own stretcher frames and how to convert inexpensive house paint into museum quality gesso. We also learned how to use the polymer medium and use it as a binder to add inexpensive tinting colors to make our own paint. All of this was done to encourage students to produce large, institutional size paintings because that was the current trend in most of the contemporary art movements of the time. OU and Gene Bavinger were very trend conscious. What ever was happening or even being experimented with in New York City was also being explored at OU. Gene was driven in the classroom and in his own personal work by trends and technology. The better I got to know him the more I understood this. At this particular time, the late sixties and early seventies, one of the hottest trends was in large atmospheric abstract paintings sometimes called “Color Field” or “Lyrical Abstractions.” These paintings were a huge visual change from the dynamic and energetic paintings produced by the “Abstract Impressionist.” They were more about light and space. They had a lyrical almost romantic feel to them. This movement certainly had roots in Abstract Expressionism with artists like Mark Rothko, Helen Frankenthaler and Jules Olitski. All three approached their paintings in very different paint application methods but managed to achieve a similar visual appeal. Rothko used traditional oil paint, Frankenthaler used thinly applied transparent stains and Olitski used commercial spray painting equipment. As I mentioned earlier, I was using canned spray paint as a method of applying color to large drawings and this led to acquiring an air brush in an effort to control the application, so the jump to larger spray equipment was a natural progression which was fueled by Gene Bavinger. Gene’s work at that time was visually similar to Olitski, very large lyrical abstractions that the viewer could literally get lost in the spacial illusion. I began the same way, playing (I want to emphasize the word play, much of what I was doing was experimentation) with the spray to create atmospheric backgrounds that I could draw with paint on top. This experimentation along with my observation of Bavinger’s personal work led me to a natural phenomenon directly related to the spray application. I think anyone that has experimented in spray paint application has witnessed this phenomenon at some point. The phenomenon that I am referring to is commonly called the “Wrinkle Technique.” The technique is simple, spray color on a wrinkled material, i.e. paper or canvas, stretch the material flat and the illusion of the wrinkle remains. I had witnessed this technique earlier in one of Bavinger’s paintings. It was a very small and insignificant part of the concept of the painting but very interesting, so when I discovered it myself, I immediately started working with it. The first few paintings were simple wrinkle illusions sprayed in different colors from different directions. I had some initial success outside the classroom and school. I entered a highly respected state competition sponsored by Philbrook Museum in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and won a purchase award. Another very nice thing about OU at that time was they had a nice visiting artist program and because it was the largest art program in the state there were always professional artists and professors from other schools dropping in unannounced. During this short period of time we had one “famous” artist (Paul Jenkins) and also two professors from other Universities (Bob Russell from Pittsburg, Kansas, and Bill Wyman from the University of Texas) drop in. They all seemed impressed with the wrinkle technique and were very encouraging. This outside encouragement along with input from Bavinger led me to push beyond the natural phenomenon of the technique and incorporate it with bigger and better concepts. I worked with this technique for about two years trying to make the visual aspect of the technique secondary to the overall concepts of light and space. I don’t think I ever really did that because the natural phenomenon was so powerful visually. Darn it, they were just too pretty! Yep, you guessed it, I was still stuck making big “pretty pictures.” [caption id="attachment_792" align="aligncenter" width="769"]"Organic Forms" - Acrylic & Shaped Canvas - 60"x60" "Organic Forms" - Acrylic & Shaped Canvas - 60"x60"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_793" align="aligncenter" width="796"]"Organic Landscape" - Acrylic - 42"x60" "Organic Landscape" - Acrylic - 42"x60"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_794" align="aligncenter" width="586"]"Light and Space" - Acrylic - 32"x36" "Light and Space" - Acrylic - 32"x36"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_796" align="aligncenter" width="633"]"Light and Space 2" - Acrylic - 48"x60" "Light and Space 2" - Acrylic - 48"x60"[/caption] About this time, 1970, OU hired a new painting professor, George Bogart. George came to help Gene with the growing painting program. He was an imposing figure; tall, thick dark hair and a big black mustache but he turned out to be a gentle patient man and one of the best teachers I have known. He immediately became another important mentor to my painting development. He was a great compliment to Gene’s technical, process driven approach to painting. George was a little more concept driven and both were prolific, passionate painters that practiced their craft every day. They both pushed me to work through problems and had a huge impact on me to develop a strong work ethic. I remember George telling me numerous times that, “A lot of good soldiers had to die before you can win the battle.” This was his way of telling me to keep working. I was now a senior in the program and realized that I should start thinking about what I was going to do when I graduated. I was majoring in Advertising Design and as I mentioned earlier very frustrated with my classes. It seemed no matter how hard I worked that I just wasn’t getting it. I now realize that my passion was elsewhere and it would take a different time and a different commitment, which I eventually achieved in about six years. I still retained a friendship with Jack Bryan at Cameron University. In a conversation with him, he mentioned that he was hopeful that in about a year he would be looking for a person to teach with him at Cameron. Wow, teach with Jack! How cool would that be? If I remember correctly, I think I stopped him mid-sentence and asked what it took to get that job. He replied, “Get your masters and come on down.”  I now know that it would take a little more than that but I took that as a job offer, so I started thinking and actively looking at grad schools that offered a masters in art. I really hadn’t thought about teaching as a career and I sure didn’t know what it took to become one so I started doing a little research. I started asking my professors what kind of degrees they had and where they got their graduate degrees. I quickly found out there were different types of graduate degrees and even different types of masters degrees. I had become friends with some of the grad students at OU and most of them were in the MFA program. I learned that this was considered the highest graduate degree available in studio art and was basically the equivalent of a PhD in other academic areas. I found out that most MFA programs were around 60 hours and usually took at least two years to complete. Darn, this was about a year too long for my projected job offer at Cameron. I continued to look for grad programs that could be completed in one year. I found that in addition to the MFA there existed a MA program that consisted of about 30 hours and was geared more to secondary education teachers seeking to add to their teaching credentials. This degree was considered less professional but only took one year to complete. I also found there were 30-hour masters available in art history but I was definitely not interested in art history, again that came much later when I had to teach it. You know I had always heard that if you truly want to learn anything just teach it, it is definitely true. So, now I knew that I was probably looking for a 30-hour masters program that was heavy on studio work. In my limited research, I found that it was generally frowned on to attend the same school for your undergrad and graduate work. This made a lot of sense to me because you spend a minimum of four years studying with a group of professors then it’s time to get input from other sources to broaden the educational experience. Unfortunately for me, I was under a self-imposed deadline that greatly affected my decisions. My only choices in the state of Oklahoma at the time were to continue at OU and pursue a MA or possibly a MFA or to go to the University of Tulsa where they offered a MA. I could also look at schools outside the state but that didn’t seem possible with my tight deadline. At this point, I took a look at my major and decided that a studio degree would be better for graduate school application. I also thought the higher the GPA in my major area the better my chances would be for acceptance so, I switched my major from Advertising Design to Printmaking. I had enough credits to major in Ad Design, Painting or Printmaking but I had a 4.0 GPA in printmaking so I chose it. As I mentioned OU offered both a MFA and a MA and it appeared that the only difference in the academic requirements was the number of hours necessary for graduation. During my last semester in my undergraduate degree I started trying to calculate the number of hours and the minimum time it would take finish. At that time their MFA program consisted of 56 hours, 4 hours short of the more standard 60-hour programs. Their program consisted entirely of studio hours, no academic classes were required and this was very appealing. I was used to taking summer classes and I thought my one-year deadline could consist of two regular semesters and two summer semesters. After some quick calculations I realized that if I took 12 hours each summer semester and 16 hours each regular semester, voilà, that was the magic 56 hours. I was very young and naive but even I knew it would be a tremendous amount of work but the payoff seemed worth the effort. I made an appointment to talk with the Director of the Art School about the submission process and a few other questions I had about the differences in the MA and MFA programs. The Director at that time was Joe Hobbs. Joe was a tall lanky cowboy want-to-be sculptor. I never had him for any classes so I can’t speak to his ability to teach. He didn’t seem to actively make sculpture or art and the pieces that I had seen were a bit dated, but he was the Director of the program the entire time I was there and quite a few years after I left so he had a lot of administrative experience. When we met, I told him I was interested in applying for grad school. He was very encouraging and asked if I had specific questions. I asked him the difference in the two possible masters programs and he basically told me that the MFA was what I should be interested in. I then asked him if there was a mandatory amount of residency time necessary to fulfill the requirements for graduation and to obtain the degree. He looked at me with a puzzled look and said, “What do you mean?” I restated the question a little more directly and said, “If I can finish the required number of hours early can I graduate in less than two years.” He replied that there was no requirement on time, you must simply complete the required 56-hours and that was it. This was great news for me; he had just confirmed that it was possible to complete the MFA program in one year. I was set, all I had to do now was complete the application process, get accepted and start. This proved to be a bit more of a challenge than I thought. I completed the necessary paperwork during my last undergraduate semester. I finished my last semester and was awarded the Alexander Letzeiser silver metal. This was a surprise and a nice honor; it was the second highest honor that OU gave for graduating undergraduate art students. [caption id="attachment_798" align="aligncenter" width="403"]"Wrinkle Study 1" - Acrylic & Watercolor - 22"x30" "Wrinkle Study 1" - Acrylic & Watercolor - 22"x30"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_799" align="aligncenter" width="972"]"Wrinkle Study 2" - Acrylic & Watercolor - 22"x30" "Wrinkle Study 2" - Acrylic & Watercolor - 22"x30"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_800" align="aligncenter" width="1044"]"Wrinkle Study 3" - Acrylic & Watercolor - 22"x30" "Wrinkle Study 3" - Acrylic & Watercolor - 22"x30"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_801" align="aligncenter" width="1044"]"Wrinkle Study 4" - Acrylic & Watercolor - 22"x30" "Wrinkle Study 4" - Acrylic & Watercolor - 22"x30"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_802" align="aligncenter" width="527"]"Ken and Irma's Horse" - Acrylic - 60"x72" "Ken and Irma's Horse" - Acrylic - 60"x72"[/caption]
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Chapter 2

Chapter 2 I am back at OU but things are a lot different now. There are two big differences this time, one, I am not alone, I have a partner. and two I have a more open mind about what Art is. I came back thinking maybe I should listen and pay attention to what my professors were trying tell me. You know, I was now 20 and out of my teens so I didn’t know everything like I did at 19. Isn’t it funny how much your intellect deteriorates as you age; I am now 64 and know absolutely nothing. I enrolled in a full load of art classes including my first printmaking class. It was an etching (intaglio) class taught by John Hadley. He was another young professor who had a huge impact on my development. I had John previously for a drawing class and would eventually have him for several classes including painting and advanced drawing. Unlike Jack, he was not my buddy, best friend or encourager, he basically came in class everyday and figured out a new way to tell me I sucked. I could never please him. I guess I was a bit of an over achiever and this really frustrated me. After teaching for over 30 years, I now know, this was his unique way of motivating students. It worked on me, the more he would rag me about my work, the harder I would work. I was determined to show him! I really enjoyed the technical aspects of printmaking. I just liked the process. It was hard work but there was no other way to achieve the look of hand inked and printed plates. I later took lithography and screen printing and enjoyed all of them. Each had its unique qualities. I enjoyed the printmaking process so much that I eventually changed my major from painting to printmaking. I never stopped painting, but I did share time with printmaking during my undergraduate studies. I think because there was more emphasis on drawing at that time in printmaking, I started doing more drawing, but the drawing I was doing was really more like painting. I know, very confusing, but OU at that time was very liberal in its approach to Art. They really didn’t like labels so all the classes seemed to merge together. Many would argue that this lack of structure didn’t give the students enough preparation in the fundamentals but it seemed to work for me. These drawings that I was doing were big. OU’s philosophy was very avant-garde; they really pushed you into large-scale work. This is something that has stuck with me. Even when I was forced to work smaller because of lack of space or because of limitations created by a technique, I always felt like my work would have more impact if it were larger. The smaller work always feels like sketches or color studies. Another thing that OU encouraged was the exploration of non-traditional materials. In an effort to go bigger with these drawings I started looking for larger paper. This led me to commercial offset printing paper. Not only was this paper larger, it was much cheaper. This was definitely a positive thing for a student with almost no income. In addition to paper, I was looking for materials to draw with; this led me to aerosol spray paint. [caption id="attachment_767" align="aligncenter" width="756"]"Kissing Stars" - graphite & airbrush, influenced by John Hadley "Kissing Stars" - graphite & airbrush, influenced by John Hadley[/caption] [caption id="attachment_768" align="aligncenter" width="532"]"Stars & Stripes" - graphite & airbrush, influenced by John Hadley "Stars & Stripes" - graphite & airbrush, influenced by John Hadley[/caption] Spray paint was being used in other parts of the country but mostly for graffiti, which had a very negative connotation publicly and generally in the art world. These drawings were mostly ebony pencil and spray paint. They were big, bold and beautiful. . .but definitely not “pretty pictures.” Unfortunately, none of these survived but I do have a few examples of smaller combination drawings where I used printmaking techniques and the airbrush to achieve a similar look and style. These examples are not as bold as the larger works but they are important because they introduced me to the airbrush. I continued to paint the more traditional still lifes and landscapes in watercolor and acrylic but now they held a different purpose in my Art. Remember, I mentioned earlier that I had established a relationship with a small gallery in Norman. Well, I continued to paint for profit. This gave me a little extra income, which we desperately needed. When we first moved to Oklahoma City, Jo had a secretary job in Oklahoma City and I commuted to Norman for school. After the first few months I realized that it was very difficult for me because I needed more time at night in the classroom/studio to complete my work. So, after talking it over with Jo, she agreed to move to Norman and she would make the commute. Did I mention how lucky I was with all aspects of love number one? Finding an apartment in Norman or any college town is usually not a difficult task. We quickly found one at one of the larger complexes, packed up our stuff and made the move. [caption id="attachment_770" align="aligncenter" width="343"]Early prints and drawings influenced by John Hadley "Fat Men 3" - etching Early prints and drawings influenced by John Hadley
"Fat Men 3" - etching[/caption] [caption id="attachment_772" align="aligncenter" width="398"]"Egg Layer" - silk screen "Egg Layer" - silk screen[/caption] [caption id="attachment_774" align="aligncenter" width="370"]"Yesterday" - silk screen "Yesterday" - silk screen[/caption] [caption id="attachment_775" align="aligncenter" width="573"]"Inner Conflict" - etching "Inner Conflict" - etching[/caption] [caption id="attachment_776" align="aligncenter" width="808"]"Out Of The Blue Of The Western Sky" - etching "Out Of The Blue Of The Western Sky" - etching[/caption] [caption id="attachment_777" align="aligncenter" width="613"]"Egg Layer 2" - silk screen "Egg Layer 2" - silk screen[/caption] This move proved to be very beneficial for me. It allowed me more time to develop my Art skills and concentrate on class projects. At this time my classes were a broad mix of beginning and intermediate Art classes, including beginning classes in 3-D design. I had a young grad assistant named David Holsonback for this foundations course. He was young and energetic and influenced me greatly in the exploration of this new and exciting form of expression. Another strong influence at that time was a professor by the name of James Flury. He was new to OU and had a show of his sculptural work in the museum during the fall semester of ‘69. The exhibit consisted of glass two-way mirror boxes with multi-colored neon inside. The bent neon tubing illuminated the inside of the boxes and the mirrors repeated the shapes infinitely. This exhibit was amazing; I had never seen anything like it before. I immediately started trying to incorporate his ideas into my 3-D Design projects. The final project was a free project that allowed me to use some of these materials. I created some egg-like shapes from wood on the lathe in the wood shop, assembled them together with dowels and glue. I then painted them flat white. I found a small electric motor at a thrift shop that rotated a shaft at a slow speed. I built a shallow box with a small hole in the top to hide the motor and allow the shaft to go through. I attached the painted wood sculpture to the shaft so it would rotate. I covered the entire structure with a ¼ inch smoked glass cube. This piece was the most successful of the two or three pieces of sculpture that I did and eventually won a purchase award. I enjoyed working 3-dimensionally and these instructors had an impact on my thought process and me, but painting was really where my heart was. [caption id="attachment_779" align="aligncenter" width="683"]Early three dimensional projects influenced by David Holsonback and James Flury "Organic Movement" - glass & wood Early three dimensional projects influenced by David Holsonback and James Flury
"Organic Movement" - glass & wood[/caption] [caption id="attachment_780" align="aligncenter" width="749"]"Thanks to Jim" - wood & steel "Thanks to Jim" - wood & steel[/caption] [caption id="attachment_781" align="aligncenter" width="760"]"Arrow & Soft Forms" - metal, wood & canvas "Arrow & Soft Forms" - metal, wood & canvas[/caption] My major at this time was Advertising Design and it seemed to me my Ad Design classes were my weakest. Ironically, I would eventually end up making my living in Graphic and Advertising Design; spending more than 35 years of my career as a professional designer. It seemed that on every project I would have what I thought was a brilliant idea that involved a massive amount of time, work and process to complete and when we presented our finished work, some of my fellow students would have a better solution that was simple and direct. I now know, I was putting all the emphasis on the process instead of the concept. I was still trying to make “pretty pictures” rather than solve the problem. I was what I now tell my students “a graphic decorator rather than a graphic designer.” By the time I was a senior, I had decided to pursue graduate school, so I changed my major to printmaking, which at that time was called Graphics at OU. I had enough hours to declare my major in Advertising Design, Painting or Printmaking, but I had a 4.0 overall GPA in Printmaking. I thought this would enhance my ability to find a good grad school. If painting was where my heart was, printmaking was where my effort and work ethic was. The technical skill level to master intaglio, lithography and screen-printing took a huge amount of time and work. It did eventually pay off, not in a graduate school but with my first teaching job. After graduating with my MFA in Painting, I got a job in North Carolina as a printmaking instructor. [caption id="attachment_782" align="aligncenter" width="760"]"3 Fingered Star Puffer" - graphite & airbrush "3 Fingered Star Puffer" - graphite & airbrush[/caption] [caption id="attachment_783" align="aligncenter" width="410"]"Climax" - graphite & airbrush "Climax" - graphite & airbrush[/caption] [caption id="attachment_784" align="aligncenter" width="530"]"UIntitled" - airbrush & embossing "UIntitled" - airbrush & embossing[/caption] [caption id="attachment_785" align="aligncenter" width="443"]"Visual Social Statement" - ink, graphite & embossing "Visual Social Statement" - ink, graphite & embossing[/caption]
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Route 44 – A Journey


A commemorative book to give logic and reason to forty-four years of work. 1969 – 2013

Chapter 1 What is Route 44, why is it so significant and why is it connected to an exhibition of paintings? Some people would immediately say it was a very large fountain drink made famous by Sonic, but in Oklahoma it usually refers to Interstate 44 (I-44). Wikipedia states that Interstate 44 (I-44) is a major highway in the central United States. Its western terminus is in Wichita Falls, Texas, at a concurrency with US 277, US 281 and US 287; its eastern terminus is at Interstate 55 in St. Louis, Missouri. I-44 is one of five interstates built to bypass U.S. Route 66; this highway covers the section between St. Louis and Oklahoma City. Virtually the entire length of I-44 east of Springfield, Missouri, was once US 66, which was upgraded from two to four lanes from 1949 to 1955. The section of I-44 west of Springfield was built farther south than US 66 in order to connect Missouri’s section with the already completed Will Rogers Turnpike, which Oklahoma wished to carry their part of I-44. Obviously, this stretch of highway has a colorful and exciting connection to Route 66 and this alone would make it noteworthy, but I am more concerned with about 87 miles of I-44, from Lawton, Oklahoma to Oklahoma City. Lawton is the town I grew up in. It is where all of my secondary education took place. It is where I found my two greatest loves. The first is obvious, my wife, my soul mate and my partner in all things, yes even my second love, Art and Design. Wow, it’s hard to imagine that Lawton, a dirty Army town, could be involved in any way with my Art development but it was, or at least individuals in Lawton had strong influences in my interests in Art.

Another important aspect of the number 44 is the number of years I have been married to my high school sweetheart. Yes, at the tender age of 20, in August of 1969, I made the biggest and best decision of my life. I would love to take all the credit for such a wonderful decision and chalk it up to my superior intellect and my amazing maturity at the time, but the truth is dumb, blind luck that was driven by my heart and had nothing to do with my brain. We were lucky from the beginning. We were best friends that grew together in our love, maturity and goals. There are a lot of similarities in the steady, consistent growth of love number one and love number two, my love affair with Art. My wife and I committed to each other and that same strong commitment is a necessary component in the successful pursuit of a life in Art.

There are a couple of other minor things that happened 44 years ago. One was the first manned moon landing, the other was a little music festival called Woodstock. but my wedding was by far the most important. It’s not a coincidence that this exhibit consists of a time span of 44 years, the same number of years of my marriage. 1969 was a very significant year in my life. I took a serious commitment to honor and grow in two life long loves. I took a big step toward manhood! So, Route 44 is more than a soft drink or even the highway, it’s a journey, it’s my journey!

Prior to this I had been involved with art and painting and had gained some skills but I had no understanding of what Art really was. Like most people I thought it was or at least had something to do with making “pretty pictures.” My concept of pretty pictures was limited to nature and other acceptable subject matter like still lifes and landscapes. I spent most of my time developing skills in traditional watercolor and acrylic. I started early in grade school. At my grade school there was a third grade teacher who had the reputation of an artist. I tried everything to get in her class. I even asked my mother to call the principal but to no avail. I did arrange (or my mother arranged) to have a private lesson, my first private lesson. This only whet my appetite; I couldn’t wait for junior high where they had art classes as electives. I took them all every semester until I graduated from high school. Soaking up everything I could about drawing, painting and all things Art, I became reasonably good, winning a few competitions and even started giving some public demonstrations and private lessons. I started selling some in the local art shows. These sales bolstered my esteem and fed my ego. This was not necessarily a bad thing because ego is an important thing in Art, but it did stunt my growth for a couple of years. I became what I now call a really good $35.00 artist.

[caption id="attachment_755" align="aligncenter" width="708"]Oklahoma Barn / watercolor Oklahoma Barn / watercolor / 1968[/caption]

After high school graduation I made another extremely important decision about College. The two big schools in the state, Oklahoma State and the University of Oklahoma, were at the top of most of my friends’ lists. Prestigious out-of-state schools were out of most of our budgets, and I was too dumb to even know about professional schools like the Art Institute, Pratt or Art Center. So, I chose OU. I went through all the motions; I visited a couple of times; I applied for scholarships; and most importantly (I thought), I went to all the rush parties. Some of the smaller schools had more traditional Art programs that would have been better for what I was doing at the time, but they didn’t have a nationally ranked football team! Looking back on it, I chose the right school for all the wrong reasons, which is typical for most 18-year-old high school graduates. In the fall of 1967, I packed up and moved to Norman, Oklahoma. By the way, I traveled most of the way on I-44. My learning experiences that year were huge. Unfortunately, most of them had nothing to do with Art. I enrolled in all of the basic freshman level art courses, but the teachers were radical and weird -- absolutely no “pretty picture” makers in the lot. I don’t think there were any in the entire school. I found a local frame shop/gallery that liked my “pretty pictures” and they began to sell my work. So, I politely did my assignments in school, knowing the instructors knew nothing about real Art, while I continued to make my “pretty pictures” outside of class. I was slowly becoming a really good $50.00 artist. All was good! Well, all was good with love number two, but love number one was gaining strength and it was 80 miles away. This was a growing problem. Also, my mother became very ill and I really needed to be home. This was not such a bad thing -- remember love number one and I certainly wasn’t learning anything about “real Art” from those radical hippies. My family (older brothers) were elated that I decided to come home for a while, but my Mom and Dad were a little concerned. I haven’t mentioned it yet, but besides my wife, my parents were always my biggest fans. I was so lucky to have understanding parents who never once asked me how I was going to make a living as an artist. So, I packed up my stuff and headed back down I-44. I enrolled at Cameron University for the spring semester in 1969. If you have been paying attention this is important. . . Things are about to get good!

[caption id="attachment_756" align="aligncenter" width="507"]Colorado House / oil / 1968 Colorado House / oil / 1968[/caption]

Being 19 and having the advantage of knowing everything (those of you who have had teenage children know what I am talking about), starting classes at Cameron after spending three semesters at OU would be a snap. Surprisingly, it turned out just like I had expected. The academic classes were much easier than at the bigger school, which allowed me more time to devote to my two loves. Love number one was really moving along since returning. We were officially engaged and in full planning mode for a late summer wedding. On a side note, even though gasoline was about 30 cents a gallon, I was saving quite a bit and certainly racking up fewer miles on I-44. As for love number two, I had enrolled in a couple of art classes at Cameron, and, of course, I was continuing to pursue my “pretty pictures.” Cameron’s art program was minuscule compared to OU’s. There was only one instructor, no building, just a couple of classrooms and almost no equipment. Jack Bryan was the art program. He was the instructor and Chair of the Department of Art. One of my classes was a beginning painting class. It was really my first class that was not part of art foundations. On the first day of class I met Mr. Bryan. I was surprised to find out he was quite young and very easy going. I bonded almost immediately. I explained with a little pride that I was transferring from OU, and it seemed to me that he also acknowledged (without saying anything) that I was special.  He probably thought, “this kid just got off the short bus and I better be extra nice to him.” Whatever the reason he did make me feel special, and I was immediately pumped about the possibilities. Maybe, just maybe, he could make “pretty pictures.” He gave us a list of supplies, talked briefly about the class and told us to get our supplies and bring them and a stretched canvas to the next class. I don’t remember exactly, but I think he said something about “Come ready to work!” I left very excited and went immediately and checked my supplies to make sure I had everything he wanted and went to a local arts and crafts store (remember this was before Hobby Lobby) to purchase a pre-stretched canvas. I wanted to show how much I already knew, so I got a big one, 36”x48”. I was satisfied this would make a good impression and allow me to make a really, really “pretty picture.” Maybe it would be worthy of a $75.00 or even $100.00 price, and I could make the huge step to a $100.00 artist. The next class came and I lugged all my paint, brushes and my new canvas to class. As soon as class started, Jack (he preferred to be called by his first name, how cool was that? I knew I was going to like this guy) came in said let’s paint. Oh my gosh, what, how - there was this huge white canvas in front of me - so intimidating. Somehow I got the courage and began on a really, really, really “pretty picture.” Well, I quickly realized that Jack was not a maker of “pretty pictures,” but he was so cool, I didn’t have any problem with his suggestions and his critiques. He was able to get me to work and explore like no professor I had previously. I worked on that first painting about two weeks and had it at a state I was satisfied with. It by no means was a “pretty picture,” but it was bold and did I say big? More importantly, I think Jack was satisfied with my progress. He came into class, took a look and said, “I think it’s time to start another painting.” I was so pleased, but I didn’t come prepared, no new canvas. I told him as much and said I would purchase another canvas and start next class period. Jack just looked at me, walked to a corner of the make shift studio and picked up a gallon can of house paint. He brought it over to my easel and simply said, “Paint over it and start again.” What, two weeks of work and I’m going to paint over it! NO WAY, but I did. . .did I tell you how cool he was. BEST LESSON SO FAR! The semester continued with Jack pushing, and me resisting, yet continuing to work and try new things. There was lots of talk about color theory, expression and composition, mostly abstract concepts and very little about making “pretty pictures.” At one point I think I asked him when we were going to keep a painting. His response was, “You will know when!” After about the fourth coat of cover-up paint on the same canvas, I started again. I had been looking at some of Robert Rauschenberg’s work and was inspired to do something with classic American symbols. So, I began with this simple concept and started with bold application of paint in the background, blocking out a composition of organic shapes. A striped pattern started taking shape, then an eagle. It started taking shape. I continued to paint out elements and repaint, trying to keep the application direct and fresh. Finally, I was finished and Jack was right. I knew it immediately; this was the one to keep. This piece is the first one chosen for this exhibit. In many ways it is the most important. It’s not because it is the best, but because it symbolizes a re-birth in my Art and philosophy about Art.

[caption id="attachment_757" align="aligncenter" width="492"]Iris / graphite / 1968 Iris / graphite / 1968[/caption]

I continued to make “pretty pictures” and kept that side of my Art separate. I was still selling work at the frame shop gallery in Norman. So, every few weeks I would get about 5 or 6 pieces ready and take them to Norman. You guessed it, up I-44. After painting these “pretty pictures,” I would try and make them even more pretty by matting and framing. At this time I didn’t cut the mats myself, but used a local frame shop to mat and frame most of the pieces. It was one of those visits to that local frame shop that really had an impact on me and truly changed everything. Up until this time, I still felt like all my professors at OU, and yes, even Jack, really didn’t know what they were talking about. Really, I had seen all of their personal work and it definitely wasn’t my idea of what Art truly was. It wasn’t “pretty pictures” so how could it be real Art. I was at the local frame shop in Lawton picking up one of my BEST “pretty pictures.” I had just come in and the shop owner invited me back to the work area to talk while he finished up my piece. We chatted while he put backing paper on my work and started looking around at the other recently framed pieces in the shop. I was immediately drawn to a beautiful little watercolor. I went closer to take a better look. It was stunning! As I admired it I asked the clerk “who did this piece?” The shop owner quickly said. . . “Jack.” “Jack” I replied, “Jack who?” He looked at me with a puzzled look on his face and said “Jack Bryan.” I was speechless. After a few seconds I asked, “When did he do it?” I thought maybe he had finally seen the light and it was a new piece he had just finished. The clerk replied, “Oh, I think it is a really old piece. He brought it in to frame as a gift for his parents.” By this time he was finished with my work and I took it and left. I could think of nothing else for days. If Jack could do work like that, I mean amazing work like that, better than anything I was doing at the time, then why, oh why, was he choosing to do the work that he was doing? What a perplexing question. The only conclusion that I could come up with was maybe I better start listening and trying to understand! I don’t think this would have been impactful or game changing if it had been anyone else’s work other than Jack’s! Anyone else’s work and I would have been inspired to match the quality, but Jack possessed the skills to make “prettier pictures” than I, yet chose not to.

[caption id="attachment_758" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Leaves / watercolor / 1969 Leaves / watercolor / 1969[/caption]

I had a great semester at home. It was a welcome relief from the pressure of OU. It was good to be surrounded by family, friends and most importantly love number one. Speaking of love number one, things were really cooking, full blown wedding prep, picking churches, picking silver patterns, china, number of guests, colors, bridesmaids, groomsmen, wedding cakes, you name it we were picking it. Luckily, I played the dumb guy card and let her make most of the decisions. It was a busy and exciting time. The semester flew by with a lot of advancement with love number two. Quite frankly, there was a lot of personal confusion mixed with a lot of thought about what Art really was and what was important. It’s the first time I had experienced this problematic aspect of love number two. Prior to this, I gave it very little thought, I just did. The only concept was trying to improve technique so each picture could be “prettier.” Now, I was wondering if pretty was important or even necessary. This question would become an ongoing battle with my process for the next 44 years. I worked on a few more pieces that were inspired by the success of the Rauschenberg inspired painting using American icons and symbols. One elaborate piece consisted of two paintings and two graphite drawings on panels hinged to a central multi-pain Plexiglas center. Toward the end of the semester a local Lawton shopping center sponsored an outdoor art festival. At the time it was the largest art festival in the area. I entered the festival and was awarded the “Best of Show” award for my booth, which consisted primarily of the recently finished Americana paintings. This was my first recognition that wasn’t “pretty pictures.” This obviously added to my confusion but it was a great way to finish the semester.

It was finally here, the summer of 1969. “Summer Of ‘69” I got my first real six-string Bought it at the five-and-dime Played it ‘til my fingers bled It was the summer of ‘69 Me and some guys from school Had a band and we tried real hard Jimmy quit and Jody got married I shoulda known we’d never get far Oh when I look back now That summer seemed to last forever And if I had the choice Ya - I’d always wanna be there Those were the best days of my life Ain’t no use in complainin’ When you got a job to do Spent my evenin’s down at the drive-in And that’s when I met you yeah Standin’ on your mama’s porch You told me that you’d wait forever Oh and when you held my hand I knew that it was now or never Those were the best days of my life Back in the summer of ‘69 Man we were killin’ time We were young and restless We needed to unwind I guess nothin’ can last forever, forever, no And now the times are changin’ Look at everything that’s come and gone Sometimes when I play that old six-string I think about you, wonder what went wrong Standin’ on your mama’s porch You told me it would last forever Oh and when you held my hand I knew that it was now or never Those were the best days of my life Back in the summer of ‘69 Everything in the lyrics of this song by Bryan Adams didn’t happen to me. I got my first six-string in ‘65 not ‘69 and I never played it till my fingers bled, maybe that’s why I’m not very good. In fact not much of this song reflects “my summer of 69” except “Those were the best days of my life.” Jo (love number one) and I spent most of the summer getting ready for the big event. It was a big and beautiful event with lots of friends, even more family and a few memorable twists. You know when you look back on important milestones in your life, some of them stick out and almost become family legends. Our wedding was one of those. The church was Jo’s childhood church and we booked it earlier in the year. We didn’t think about the August heat being a problem because the wedding was inside. What we didn’t know was the church had a policy of not turning the air conditioning on until two hours prior to the event. Jo’s Step-Dad had a custom homemade wedding cake made for us as a gift. It was an elaborate four tiered classic wedding cake with butter icing. It was a thing of beauty. I had only seen cakes like this in the movies. It was delivered shortly after noon to the reception hall at the church. The Hot Church! At about 3:00, the heat started melting the butter icing. The tiers started shifting. . .Well, you guessed it; the cake fell in the floor! Later that afternoon, just as I was about to leave to go to the church, I got a very frantic call from Jo. She was sobbing and I barely could understand her. I finally made out “The cake fell in the floor.” I tried to console her but it was hopeless. I told her I would be right down and try to do something about it. By the time I got there her Mom and Step-Dad had already sprung into action. He had called the lady that made the cake and she immediately came down. When she arrived and after she stopped crying she got busy and sent every available person at the church to all the bakeries and grocery stores in town to purchase every plain white cake that was available. They found only one! She carefully pulled the second tier out of the middle of tier number one where it had fallen. Tiers three and four were in the floor, so there was nothing to do but clean those up. She carefully re-shaped tier number two and patched it with more icing then took the one small new cake, iced and decorated it and placed it on top and we amazingly now had a three layer classic cake. Wheeew! Disaster diverted. By the way we had cake left over and still had the top tier to freeze and keep for our first anniversary. . .and we built a legendary memory! [caption id="attachment_762" align="aligncenter" width="728"]God Bless America #1 / acrylic / 1969 God Bless America #1 / acrylic / 1969[/caption]

We went on a short honeymoon and when we got back we moved, yep you guessed it, up I-44 to Oklahoma City. Jo already had a job and I was about to re-enroll at the University of Oklahoma to continue my pursuit of love number two.

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