Every Artist Starts Somewhere- Junior High And High School

This is the second installment of an occasional series on my beginnings as an artist. You can read the first one here. I started with my childhood, which included lessons offered by a local art organization. I was in junior high in the late 1960s when there was not only still an art class at my school, but it was required.

In high school I was focused on meeting the entry requirements for going to the University of California, so I had to concentrate on academic classes, not fun electives, although I was active in the Drama Dept. for my sophomore and junior years (and those are some stories for another day). In my senior year I finally took an art class. along with the class that put together the school yearbook. In the end, I qualified, but never went to UC because my heart was set on Berkeley, but found after researching it that Cal was known for many things, but not its art department. Such is life.

I ended up back in Humboldt County going to Humboldt State University, majoring in art, but I only took one drawing class and no painting classes, instead taking the jewelry and calligraphy classes, which I loved and a screen-printing class, which I hated- too many steps between the idea and its manifestation that, for me, had nothing to do with creativity. I lasted out the drawing class, but got disgusted and bored early on because I was looking for traditional training in fine drawing, but had a teacher, typical of the time, who was only interested in “self-expression” and couldn’t actually draw very well himself. Learning to really draw was something that would have to wait. Around ten years or so.

Here’s a selection of my work from back then.

We have to cut up colored paper and create these tangles, then paint them as realistically as possible.
We had to cut up colored paper and create these tangles, then paint them as realistically as possible cut them out and paste them on black paper. This seems to be the only piece I have left from my 9th grade art class. Mr. Stebbins was our teacher at Winship Junior High in Eureka, California, where I grew up.
A value exercise in my high school art class.
A value exercise in my high school art class. This one was chosen for the holiday art department art show, so it’s nicely presented. Bob Lopez at Eureka Senior High School was our wonderful art teacher. He let us turn on the radio during class. I remember, I think it was in the spring, that every day for weeks at around 1pm, the theme from “Shaft” would play.
Still life in acrylic. Notice I went for an animal part.
Still life in acrylic. Notice I went for an animal part.  24×18″
Pen and ink still life.
Pen and ink still life. And an animal part, of course. 24×18″
Local Victorian re-located for Halloween theme assignment.  24x18"
Local Victorian re-located for Halloween theme assignment. Still pleased with the somewhat lurid colors. 24×18″

I still did work on my own at home. Here’s one of three mushrooms I did that are definitely artifacts of the time.

 Pena and ink patriotic mushroom
Pen and ink patriotic mushroom 11x 8 1/2″

Every Artist Starts Somewhere-Childhood

I thought that I would occasionally share some my early artwork. Really early, for starters, from when I was from around eight to thirteen years old.

When we buy art books or go to shows, we see an artist’s best work and that is as it should be. But no one starts like Athena springing full-grown from Zeus’ head. No matter how “talented” an artist is, there is still a lot to learn, motor skills to develop and a personal path to find.

Most of us probably end up throwing away far more of our creations than we keep.

The takeaway, I hope, is that you should just start where you are and keep going. And if you want to try making art, DO IT! Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks or if you have “talent” or if you’re “good enough”. Take joy in the process. Like I did as a kid.

Here’s a sampling of some “historic” works that didn’t get round-filed.

My first "major" work. Using a Walter T. Foster art book on big cats that I still have, I tried to put together a composition with a number of elements. I always liked to draw animals most of all and was, I think, about 8 years old when I painted this. "Lion Family" approx. 18x24" probably watercolor, but maybe acrylic, on paper
One of PILES of drawings I did as a kid. My dad brought home old business forms and I drew on the blank backs. I had an endless supply of paper, but ended up a little surprised to learn that one could get drawing paper that didn't have printing on one side. "Lion" colored pencil, 8.5x11"
When I was 11, I took my first real art lessons from local Humboldt County artist Dorothy (Dottie) Stocum, through the Redwood Art Association (RAA). This great class for kids was held on Saturday mornings in a big old empty Victorian. The media is acrylic, which was brand new back then (the mid-1960s) and touted as being THE replacement for oils. Well, no. "Still Life" acrylic 18x24"
My "abstract" phase when I was also messing around with using a palette knife. Also an RAA Saturday morning class piece. "Arrows" acrylic 18x24"
Somewhere around age 12 or 13, I learned about sketching from life; these were found object (driftwood and stones) sculptures that I saw when my mom took me to the Ferndale Art Festival. They needed to be drawn. And I loved the titles. No idea who the artist was. Approx. 6x8" blue felt tip pen on paper