Route 44 – A Journey – Chapters 14, 15, 16

Chapter 14 A few years before, my parents had sold their business and moved to Oklahoma City to be closer to my brothers and their families. Moving to Oklahoma City was also the logical move for us at this time. So, we packed up another U-Haul and headed up I-44. We found a nice little rent house on the north side of Oklahoma City, fairly close to my mother and my two older brothers. Jo had great clerical skills and never had trouble finding a good job and Oklahoma City was no exception. I on the other hand was a different story. My oldest brother knew the owners of one of Oklahoma City’s oldest and most respected art and frame shops, Denton Frame. I called them and they interviewed me and offered me a job the first week we were there. I came to work that first day thinking I knew everything there was to know about framing artwork. I had two degrees in art, I had framed most of my work for the past 12 years and I had even managed a small art supply and frame shop in Lawton the last month we were there. What more could I learn? Well, the very first day I made more frames than the entire month that I managed the shop in Lawton. The first month I made more frames than I had made in my life and the frames were more complex. In Lawton, I prided myself in mat selections almost always using a double mat with a nice contrasting color accent then surrounding the work with a thin simple frame. At Denton’s, Mrs. Denton would choose three and four color mat combinations with frames that would consist of four different moldings put together. It was hard work and I learned a lot about the framing business and the successful system that Mr. and Mrs. Denton had put together over 40 years in the business. The house that we were renting had a spare bedroom that I converted into a studio. I continued to work on my collagraph series, finishing up two large paintings that I had started at Cameron and several smaller collagraph prints that I printed on the press at Cameron before we left. Quickly, I ran out of printed collagraphs and to continue this series I would have to find a press to print more images. I considered purchasing a press but that was a lot of money, so I started experimenting with the collagraph plate making techniques and adding color as I built them as apposed to coloring them after they were printed. The last painting of this series was completed on canvas using these techniques. I have included this painting in my retrospective show because of its significant contribution to the evolution of my artwork. Chapter 15 After almost a year at the frame shop I really wanted to use my art talent more, so I started looking for graphic design related freelance work. I answered an ad that I saw in the newspaper, seeking illustrators. It turned out that the company was a recording studio that was looking for design and illustration help for album covers. This seemed like a very glamorous job and at the interview I learned that the company was divided in two parts. One part of the company worked with Christian music and the other worked with secular knock off music. The majority of the work they were looking for at that time was the knock off music. Let me explain, during that time period, the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, there were very few copyright laws on performed and recorded music. In the early ‘70s there were a lot of companies that sprung up called “bootleg or pirate” companies. They would buy the latest recordings and duplicate them and sell them in eight-track format at a cheap price in truck stops all over America. They didn’t pay royalties and the original artists and recording companies got nothing for these sales. As you might suspect, legislation was quickly passed making this illegal. Many of those same companies started making “sound alike” recordings to keep their product legal. A “sound alike” was a recording of the same music by a different artist that tried to sound as much like the original as possible. For a short period of time this was legal and that is where I came into this picture. The company that I interviewed with was one of those companies. They gave me one assignment to see how I would do. They would pay $75.00 for an illustration of Dolly Parton to be used as cover art for an eight-track tape. The product name was “The Hits of Dolly Parton” and in real tiny type “as performed by The Nashville Sound.” My illustration career was born! They loved the Dolly Parton illustration and quickly gave me more assignments. I started doing one to two of these a week in addition to my full-time framing job. I liked the challenge and we could certainly use the extra money. After a few weeks the recording company asked me if I would be interested in a full-time position with them. I knew from the beginning that this company was a little shaky but I really liked the idea of making a living with my art skills. I talked with them more about the opportunity and they told me not only would I be working full-time but also I would be the creative director of the newly created art department. As the director, I would be in charge of the entire creative team and could hire additional artists to expand the production. That’s all I needed, a title and I was in. When I started working they didn’t even have a place for me or the newly created “art department” to work in, so they asked me to go to their warehouse/manufacturing plant. They literally put a drawing table in the middle of an open area in the warehouse and said “Here’s your desk, we’ll put walls around it soon.” So, I started working. There was one other illustrator, a production artist and a secretary when I started. Everyday was a new experience, the first day we kind of huddled in the middle of this giant open space. The next day when we got to work we had one wall propped up and another being built. The next day we had four walls and a door. It really got interesting when they started putting the roof over us while we were working! I eventually hired another illustrator and another production artist/typesetter and we gradually built a pretty efficient team. The company had a large catalog of products that they were selling (or trying to sell) with type only labels, usually printed on day glow paper. Our job was to make these products look like real tapes from major recording labels. This was no small task and they wanted it done yesterday, so we worked. We had 3 illustrators and our goal was to finish one product each day. That meant one full color illustration per day or five illustrations per week for each illustrator for a total of 15 per week. One of the things I noticed very quickly was that the covers started all looking alike. This was no real surprise under the time restraints we were under. I also noticed that even though the illustrations looked really good they did not look like real products from major labels. Most of the major labels used photography, so we started using some photography to vary the look and style. This not only helped with variety but also it was less labor intensive so it helped us achieve our quotas. At first I hired a professional photographer and used his studio for a couple of projects. I had always used photography to shoot slides of my paintings and while I was in school I learned how to process film and use an enlarger to make prints. Working with a professional photographer and watching him in the studio gave me the confidence to try it myself. I realized that all I needed was a little more professional equipment, so I talked with the owner of our company and he agreed to purchase a lighting system and a 4x5 camera and just like that my professional photography career was born. We continued on at our frantic pace, and I began to do more and more photography work while the others did illustrations. This continued for about a year and suddenly we caught up with the company backlog of products. My supervisor talked with me and told me that I would have to trim my staff. We had grown to about 8 --  3 illustrators, 2 production artists, and 2-3 support staff. This meant I would have to fire someone. This was the hardest thing I had ever done. I started with the last production artist I had hired. This bought me a couple of weeks before I had to let someone else go. After the first, the second and third came pretty quickly and it never got any easier. The questionable ethics of the company and their instability really pushed me toward leaving and starting my own design studio. I talked to the owner of the company and he seemed relieved at the prospect of me leaving and going back to a freelance basis so I started looking for a small office space that I could set up shop. Originally I asked one of the remaining illustrators to join me and a writer/public relations friend that we had worked with for a short period of time in my new graphic design/ad agency. They both came with me but it was a struggle financially and my illustrator friend left after about a month. The PR person left after about a year and it was down to me. In addition to the pressure of starting a new business, Jo and I had our second child, a beautiful baby girl we named Devin. I struggled on for the next 15 years. During these years I continued to paint and tried to stay up with current trends in the fine art world. In the late seventies and early eighties I became aware of a minor art movement called Abstract Illusionism and in particular with an artist by the name of James Havard. I was definitely influenced by his work and started using some of his cast shadow techniques on commercial illustration projects. Later, I used these same airbrush techniques on larger scaled paintings. In the course of writing this book and researching my facts I came across the Wikipedia definition of Abstract Illusionism. Abstract Illusionism, a name coined by art historian and critic Barbara Rose, is an artistic movement that came into prominence in the United States during the mid-1970s. Works consisted of both hardedge and expressionistic abstract painting styles that employed the use of perspective, artificial light sources, and simulated cast shadows to achieve the illusion of three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface. Abstract Illusionism differed from traditional Trompe-l’oeil (fool the eye) art in that the pictorial space seemed to project in front of, or away from, the canvas surface, as opposed to receding into the picture plane as in traditional painting. Primarily, though, these were abstract paintings, as opposed to the realism of Trompe l’oeil. By the early 1980s, many of the visual devices that originated in Abstract Illusionism were appropriated into the commercial world and served a wide variety of applications in graphic design, fabric design and the unlikely decoration of recreational vehicles. This proliferation of Abstract Illusionist imagery eventually led to the disintegration of the original artistic movement and its transition into the mainstream. I found this definition quite ironic since I first used the technique in illustration and then converted it to fine art, just the reverse of the definition. I have used this Trompe-l’oeil technique in various ways for over 30 years. I guess I am no longer (and probably never was) in the forefront of innovative trend setting art. Oh well, it still interests me so I’ll keep doing it until it doesn’t feel relevant to my work. [caption id="attachment_895" align="aligncenter" width="555"]Commercial illustration projects greatly influenced my future paintings and where I discovered "Abstract Illusionism." "Book Cover Comp" / 12"x9" / printed map, photography and acrylic on watercolor paper Commercial illustration projects greatly influenced my future paintings and where I discovered "Abstract Illusionism."
"Book Cover Comp" / 12"x9" / printed map, photography and acrylic on watercolor paper[/caption] [caption id="attachment_896" align="aligncenter" width="520"]"Book Cover Finished Illustration" / 12"x9" / printed map, photography and acrylic on watercolor paper "Book Cover Finished Illustration" / 12"x9" / printed map, photography and acrylic on watercolor paper[/caption] [caption id="attachment_897" align="aligncenter" width="468"]"The Gift of Life - Magazine Cover Finished Illustration" / 8.5"x11" / photography, Xerox copies and acrylic on watercolor paper "The Gift of Life - Magazine Cover Finished Illustration" / 8.5"x11" / photography, Xerox copies and acrylic on watercolor paper[/caption] Chapter 16 The next major series of work was motivated by these early illustrations. The first was a book cover illustration for a book that pointed out restaurant locations in the state of Oklahoma. I used a road map and colored dots with abstract acrylic paint splashes all glued in a collage technique to rough watercolor paper. All the elements had airbrushed shadows that made them appear to float above the watercolor paper ground. The second was another cover illustration for a local health magazine. The featured article was on the topic of organ donation and the gift of life. Again, traditional illustration and photography were collaged onto a rough watercolor textured paper with airbrushed shadows. The primary inspirations came from the Abstract Illusionism movement and an illustrator by the name of David Lesh. Lesh uses a collage technique with Xerox copied elements, typography and paint on rough textured surfaces. These two commercial illustrations were very successful for me and inspired me to take the concepts to a larger scale. About this same time my early mentor back at OU, Gene Bavinger, developed a technique of painting in reverse on glass. This technique produced some of the most visually exciting paintings I have ever seen and became his trademark style that he explored until his death in 1997. Bavinger used very thick transparent acrylic paint and applied it to large plate glass sheets with a variety of tools including brushes, palette knives, squeegees and occasionally spray guns. As I mentioned the paint was very transparent so he layered the thick paint on to build up a rich and deep color saturation. Occasionally he would lift the glass up to see his progress from the bottom because it would eventually become the top. When he was satisfied with the layering, he would apply one last thick coat of straight polymer acrylic followed by raw canvas. The acrylic would bond the canvas to the rest of the paint and after it dried, he would peel it off the glass. The canvas would then be stretched in a normal manner on a stretcher frame. As I mentioned, the result was spectacular. The paintings were deep, rich and textural while the surface was shiny and totally smooth. This new technique inspired me to combine the glass technique of Bavinger with the collage and imagery techniques that I was using in my illustration work. The first couple were fairly small, approximately 24”x36” and allowed me to experiment not only with the technique but also the imagery. They gave me the opportunity to use my photography skills and combine images that I had created earlier in my career. The first images were black and white personal images that I hand colored. This later led to commercial images that helped tie my two worlds of Graphic Design and Fine Art together. The bulk of this new series had a central image theme, flowers. The inspiration for these images had a direct tie to my design/photography business. One of my largest clients during the late eighties was a floral wire service company by the name of Carik Floral Services. They were based in Denver, Colorado, and I knew the owner when he worked in Oklahoma City for American Floral Service. He was head of sales and I worked with him on several promotional and advertising projects. When he started Carik, I developed the logo and corporate identity for his new business venture. After the company was established, I started working for him on several photographic catalogs. He would fly me to Denver and I would rent photo equipment and set up a temporary photo studio in his warehouse. We would work for about two weeks, then I would fly home for about a week, then fly back and start all over. We did this for almost the entire summer to complete their first sales catalog. My job was to shoot 4x5 transparencies of each floral arrangement as the floral designers finished them. There were three floral designers working in the design studio with almost unlimited fresh flowers to pick and use in their arrangements. Even with three designers working, I still had quite a bit of down time, so I filled that time by shooting “flower portraits.” These “flower portraits” eventually became the imagery that I used in my floral painting series. In 1990, I got two separate calls from different friends, to tell me that they had seen ads in different newspapers advertising an opening at Central State University for a teaching position in the Art Department. Amazingly, I had also seen an ad in the local newspaper for the same position. I thanked both friends and told them I would check it out, but frankly, I didn’t have much hope. My previous experiences had taught me that often positions advertised in this manner were already filled and the ads were merely a method of satisfying state government regulations on hiring. I did look into it and was told the position was still open and was given information on how to apply. I immediately started the application process and submitted my credentials, letters of recommendation, and slides of my work. The position was for a person to teach graphic design and computer graphics. My degrees were in Fine Art, but I had been practicing Graphic Design as a professional designer for the last 15 years, so I felt comfortable in my abilities to teach in this field. My computer skills were not very good because this was a very new skill at that time. Most of the graphic design production at that time was still being done manually. Even with my extensive professional experience, I was still not very optimistic about this position. As I mentioned, it had been 15 years since my last teaching position at Cameron. Outside of the first summer after Cameron, when I was actively looking for a new teaching position, I had not heard about a possible teaching position let alone applied for one and all of the sudden three separate leads, all for the same position. The Lord truly does work in mysterious ways! The hiring process at the University level is a very slow and methodical process. I was not surprised that I had not heard anything from Central State, in fact I kind of forgot about it when I got a call from a professor in the Art Department. He introduced himself over the phone and said that his call had nothing to do with the teaching position, but rather he was looking for information on how computer technology was being used in the graphic design profession. He asked if he could come to my office and talk with me further about this topic. I said, “Sure” and we agreed on a date and time later that week. The professor’s name was Bill Wallo and at that time he was the gallery director at Central State. The Macintosh computer was fairly new at that time and the desktop publishing software, PageMaker, was making a lot of news in the graphic design industry. I did not own either but I had read several articles about them and had talked with many designers and production artists at various service bureaus in Oklahoma City. When Bill came to my studio, he brought a friend, Dave Hessie. They were very interested in my opinion on the topic of desktop publishing and what they called multi-media. To this day I am not sure what that word multi-media means in the context of computer graphics, but we spent a good hour talking about the topic. I shared with them what I knew which was not much. At that time service bureaus were primarily typesetters and color separation houses and they did not feel the new “desktop publishing” quality was good enough to affect the current methods of graphic design production. The one thing that I took note of was the amount of industry buzz there was about this new topic. You could not pick up any graphic design periodical without seeing at least one main article devoted to the new computer and software. In the 15 years of my professional design career, I had never seen anything that commanded that much attention. In less than two more years many of those typesetters were closed or had converted to digital output service bureaus. It took about two more years for the color separators to go out of business and the rest is history. Through our discussion I learned that both Bill and Dave were painters and became friends in school, so I steered our conversation toward fine art and showed them a couple of my new pieces which both used photography and a collage technique. Bill seemed very interested and said he was curating a new show that he felt my work was perfectly suited for. I said I would love to participate and he verbally asked me to get a couple of pieces ready. I said I would and thanked him for the opportunity. I submitted a couple of pieces to the group show that included about 10 artists from the local area that used photography in some form in their artwork. I went to the opening and this was my first visit to the campus. I later found out that Bill was on the search committee for the position that I had applied for and I definitely think our meeting had something to do with me being hired. I finally got a call from the chair of the search committee, Dr. Jim Watson. He asked if I could come to the campus for an interview and I quickly agreed to do so. The committee included Dr. Watson, Bill Wallo and Dr. Joann Adams. The interview went well and they introduced me to several other faculty members and asked me a few questions about my teaching philosophy and how I would handle a few specific teaching situations. They asked me to come prepared to show my work and talk briefly about it to a small group of faculty and students, which I did. After my lecture they showed me around the art building and explained specifics about their program and students. At that point Dr. Watson walked me across campus and pointed out a few buildings on our way to the Administration building. In the Administration building I met with a person who explained the benefits and salary package, but no one actually offered me the job. I left feeling pretty good about the interview but a little confused. Later that week Bill Wallo called and offered me the job and said they would prepare a contract that would make it official. I was elated and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. I immediately started planning and finishing all the current work in the studio so I could close the studio. Thinking back on that time period, I now realize that everything went together amazingly well in a very short period of time. By the time the fall semester started, all of my business responsibilities were pretty much settled and I was able to concentrate on my new job.
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Route 44 – A Journey, Chapters 17 & 18

Chapter 17 I started teaching again during the 1991 academic year. That same year the University changed its name to the University of Central Oklahoma. The one area that I felt was my weakness was in computer graphics so, as soon as I learned that I got the teaching position I contacted a friend/designer that I knew was on the forefront of computer technology and he advised me on my first Macintosh computer purchase. I remember vividly he said I would need the computer, of course, a scanner, a color monitor, an external storage system and a printer. The total package came to $12,000.00. A lot of money but in those days an entry-level typesetter cost about $50,000.00 so, this seemed like a bargain. The learning curve was steep for me. I was a person that shied away from technology and really enjoyed the old school methods. I didn’t even know how to type, and still don’t, which is painfully obvious as I hunt and peck my way through this book. My friend helped me hook everything up and showed me how to turn it on, but after that I was on my on. I enrolled in a local computer software class on PageMaker, which helped get me over the initial hump. Luckily, in my first semester I was scheduled to teach all traditional art classes, mostly beginning drawing. Once again, someone was looking out for me. This gave me a semester to get better on the computer. I realized after I was at school that they had two computer graphics classes, one was called Desktop Publishing and featured PageMaker and the other was called Computer Graphics and featured the drawing programs called FreeHand and Illustrator. I had acquired enough knowledge about PageMaker to make me dangerous, but I knew nothing about Freehand or Illustrator. At that time a company called Aldus distributed PageMaker and FreeHand. Illustrator was Adobe’s flagship software. I was scheduled to teach Computer Graphics in the spring semester, so I had a lot of work to do to get ready. I had always heard the old saying “If you want to really learn a subject teach it.” I found this to be true my first year teaching in North Carolina when I had to teach an Art History survey class. I was not particularly interested in art history as a student but when I taught it took on much more meaning for me and I learned far more than I had previously in all my Art History classes as a student. It proved true again in Computer Graphics. By the time the semester was over I felt very comfortable with the computer. Being back in a University setting was really good for my painting. I now had more time to devote to it and a purpose with a few shows like the annual faculty show, as well as the “Painted Photograph” show that Bill Wallo had originally asked me to participate in. I was also teaching at Oklahoma City University as an adjunct. At OCU I taught more fine art courses including painting.  At UCO, my full-time position, I taught graphic design classes. About two or three years into my new teaching duties, I felt completely comfortable with the Mac computer and its uses in the graphic design industry. At UCO, I took over the responsibility of trying to stay on top of the constantly changing world of technology. One of the areas we needed to improve was our printing capability. Advancements had been made to desktop printers and now there were color laser and inkjet printers that allowed the designer to produce pre-print comps that were comparable to finished offset prints. These printers allowed the designer to preview what the design would look like after printing. I saw a great need for this type of printer in the classroom. Graphic Design students rarely had the opportunity to see their projects printed and this fact definitely limited their abilities to produce visually exciting portfolios. I started trying to get one of these printers for our program and at the end of our budget year, the chair of the department, Dr. Hummel, told me that we had enough left in our budget to purchase one but that I had to get the estimate and purchase order complete and submitted that day. I started scrambling and called our local Xerox distributor and got an estimate. I quickly asked our secretary if she would type up the purchase order. I then walked it across campus and got the necessary signatures to complete the order. The model I chose was a Tektronix solid inkjet printer that was capable of printing on almost any paper in full color up to a tabloid (11”x17”) plus bleed making the largest paper size 12”x18”. For that time it was the perfect comp printer. It was a major purchase for us and cost over $9,000.00. It proved to be one of the most valuable purchases we ever made for our Design program. It immediately impacted the students and their ability to produce beautiful color comps of their work. Later that year, I was bragging about this printer to some of my colleagues from OU and OSU and they both said they had the same printer but it rarely got used. I later found out from students who transferred to our program that the reason they rarely used the printer was because it was hidden in a closet and no one showed them how to use it. I realized at that point that it didn’t matter how much technology a program owned, it was useless if the instructors didn’t incorporate it into the program. I committed at that point to stay on top of technology and make it available for student use. I truly think that this simple philosophy is one of the biggest differences in our program and one direct reason for its success. Shortly after we got the printer I started exploring the possibilities of using it for fine art prints. My education and background in fine art printmaking taught me that there were four primary types or methods of printmaking. They were: 1. Intaglio, where the ink was held below the surface of the plate as in etchings and engravings; my old favorite the collagraph fell into this category, 2. Relief, where the ink is held above the surface as in wood cuts, linoleum cuts and commercial letterpress, 3. Planography, where the ink is held on the surface or plane of the plate as in lithography, and 4. Stencil, where a stencil blocks the ink like silkscreen or serigraphy. After using the new printer I quickly realized that a new or fifth method, digital, could also be used. The only real problem was the inks these new printers used were not light fast and faded very quickly. I continued to experiment with this new process trying all sorts of homemade and purchased coatings to inhibit UV rays and retard the fading. The printing manufacturers were also working on a solution to this problem and within a couple of years came up with ink sets that were tested and rated for over 100 years, making them archival, in fact far more archival than traditional photographic prints. This new method of printing and the computer technology fit perfectly with the images and the collage process of my paintings. For the first time ever, I felt a direct connection with what I was doing on a large scale in my paintings and what I was doing on a smaller scale with limited edition printmaking. [caption id="attachment_906" align="aligncenter" width="744"]"Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" Mixed Media on Canvas 48"x66" "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" Mixed Media on Canvas 48"x66"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_907" align="aligncenter" width="560"]"Orchid" Mixed Media on Canvas 54"x65" "Orchid" Mixed Media on Canvas 54"x65"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_908" align="aligncenter" width="570"]"Protea" Mixed Media on Canvas 60"x66" "Protea" Mixed Media on Canvas 60"x66"[/caption] Chapter 18 This brings me to the present, 44 years since I started this journey. After approximately the same number of years teaching as I had worked professionally as a graphic designer, I finally came to the conclusion that I no longer needed to include imagery in my paintings and prints. I had been working with floral images for about 14 years and realized that my abstract paintings from 30 years ago held the same properties of color, light and space as my newest paintings and the images were getting in the way. I was always trying to conform or have my work accepted and I think in a subconscious and even an occasional conscious way, I thought working with images in a more realistic fashion would achieve this. I now think I was wrong and who cares anyway! I am no longer fearful of conformation or being compared to other artists, styles or movements. I am no longer afraid of being cutting edge, traditional or any other label. I am just me and these are my paintings!   [caption id="attachment_909" align="aligncenter" width="576"]"Minions With Pink Ridges" Acrylic on Canvas 66"x90" "Minions With Pink Ridges" Acrylic on Canvas 66"x90"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_910" align="aligncenter" width="576"]"X Marks The Spot" Acrylic on Canvas 66"x66" "X Marks The Spot" Acrylic on Canvas 66"x66"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_911" align="aligncenter" width="656"]"Blue Hearts" Acrylic on Canvas 36"x48" "Blue Hearts" Acrylic on Canvas 36"x48"[/caption]
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Route 44 – Journey – Chapter 6, 7 & 8

Chapter 6 I had now completed half of my required 56 hours for my graduate MFA degree and was in the middle of the spring 1972 semester. Because of my anticipated graduation I started preparation for my Senior Exhibit. The first step was contacting my graduate committee advisors and scheduling the show. My committee consisted of Gene Bavinger, George Bogart and Pete Bache. My first contact was George Bogart. When I approached him and told him I wanted to talk about my senior show he said “Why, you have a whole year left before graduation.” I immediately knew I was in trouble. I explained what I was trying to do and why and he said the program was a minimum 2 year program and that it was not possible to complete it in only one year. I explained that I had talked to the Director, Joe Hobbs, and he had told me there were no restrictions on minimum time spent. George was very concerned and sympathetic but was not very optimistic that I would be allowed to graduate in one year. I again stated that after the current semester I would only have 12 hours remaining and that I had already completed 12 hours during the last summer term and was sure I could repeat that performance. He said that he would talk to the Director and get back with me, but not to get my hopes up. I quickly approached the rest of my committee and got the same shock and disbelief. They also said they didn’t think that this would be possible. When Joe Hobbs was confronted about the situation he simply denied ever having said that and said I must have misunderstood. It was obvious that I was not going to win this battle. A new policy was created that specified there was a minimum of a 2-year residency that was required before completing the MFA degree program. At the time I was devastated. This would mean that I would miss my window of opportunity for the teaching position at Cameron (my dream job) and there would be no guarantees of a teaching job anywhere. In addition, I would have to spread my remaining 12 hours over another year. This just seemed unfair and a waste. Looking back on it now, it wasn’t such a bad thing. The truth is I don’t really know if the casual commitment from Jack Bryan was a real job offer. At the very least, I would have had to apply like everyone else and win the job with my credentials, body of work and personal interview. Sure, I had some things going for me but I was also very, very young. As it turned out I told my friend Dwight Pogue about it and he applied and got the job. I hoped that by the next year there might be another position or that Dwight would not like it there and move on, but I knew the chances were pretty slim. OK, welcome to my new reality. What do I do now? After 5 years in college, 4 undergraduate years and 1 in grad school, what do I do now? I wasn’t going to quit; there was no logic in that. One thing was certain, I could S L O W down. There was no reason to enroll in summer school, I only had 12 hours left and I had to spread those out over the next year. After taking 16 hours each regular semester taking only 6 was going to take some adjustment. So, I decided to take the summer off, try and relax and wrap my head around finishing and the job search that would follow. I was still working with the bag series and was still pretty excited about the potential there so I enrolled in 6 hours of painting for the fall semester. You know the funny thing about it, this exercise in writing has forced me to remember everything possible about past events that relate to my work and I can’t remember anything about that summer. I guess for the first time my thoughts were not consumed with work and love number two. I guess I relaxed and just enjoyed life for a while. I do remember a lot of spring and summer evenings with fellow grad student friends playing Ping-Pong and drinking beer at our little rent house. Most of our friends at that time were fellow grad students and their wives who were a year ahead of me in the program. Most of them had just graduated and were in the process of looking for a University teaching position. This was something that I knew I now would be consumed with in another year, so watching them go through it really helped me prepare. I had a part-time job as a maintenance man for an apartment complex, which eventually led to us moving to a newer complex where we became assistant managers. This job only lasted about a month. The job paid for half of our rent, which was the equivalent of $75.00 a month, and for that huge amount of money we got to be responsible for the entire complex of about 50 apartments. You know Jo and I have never been real good with money or anything that had to do with finances, but in less than a month we both realized that this was not a good financial decision. I only had about 8 months left until I graduated so we decided to stay and just pay the full amount for rent. Chapter 7 Fall semester started and I continued to work with bags of colored liquid. Each piece became more elaborate in construction and the development of each component. They also became more and more dimensional. The final couple of pieces were free standing structures made with a complex redwood 1”x2” frame that supported the bags. They were large massive pieces and even I would have a difficult time justifying them as paintings. The largest was a grid construction that was 8’ x 8’ x 1’. This piece had 144 bags that were 12” square hanging in each open 12” space of the grid. The weight was unbelievable. I assembled this piece in my studio at the time, which if you remember, was an old bathhouse. My space was the shower area so there were drains in the floor and the floor slanted toward the drains. This slant made the piece lean slightly. People were afraid to come into the room because they were afraid the structure would fall on them. In reality there was no way it could fall because the weight stabilized the piece. In retrospect, I think the reason I continued to build and highly craft these elaborate pieces had to do with me wanting to give or make these pieces more permanent, more like traditional paintings, more like pretty pictures. Toward the end of the semester I started doing some drawings of the colored bags. They were a little smaller and more personal than the large major pieces. They were still big, particularly for drawings, they were 18”x24” up to 22”x30” in size. I used a variety of media to produce these drawings including graphite pencils, colored pencils, oil pastels and acrylic paint. The paint was primarily used for the backgrounds and was applied with a spray gun and traditional brushes. These were important transitional pieces because they bridged the gap between two distinctively different bodies of work. I had been working with bags and the arranged process for about a year. This is not a particularly long time but it resulted in a large body of work that explored a lot of related but different concepts. I found myself really missing the physical aspects of making more traditional art, “pretty pictures.” These drawings were a way to use my hand skills and produce more traditional art that had a relationship to the current “bag” series. The interest in these drawings led me back to an interest in printmaking, my original undergraduate degree. I decided to enroll in a lithography class my final semester. This was an area of printmaking that I had not explored. At OU at that time graduates did not actually have specific classes. They enrolled in hours under a specific instructor and worked independently. I enrolled in 3 hours under one of the printmaking instructors. As it turned out, Ralph Steeds, the other graduate student that was admitted with me was a printmaker. The graduate studio for printmaking was back on the main campus. Ralph and I were the only students working in this space so we got to know each other pretty well. Ralph was a very disciplined technician and taught me a lot about stone lithography. During this period of time I worked on perfecting my skills in printmaking, particularly in lithography. This skill set eventually proved to be very beneficial and I’ll talk more about that in a future chapter of this book. I produced several small editions of lithographs primarily to learn more about the craft of lithography. The subject matter for these prints came from the drawings of bags I mentioned earlier in this chapter. [caption id="attachment_839" align="aligncenter" width="728"]"Projection Bags" - plastic bags, wood, food color & fluorescent light "Projection Bags" - plastic bags, wood, food color & fluorescent light[/caption] [caption id="attachment_840" align="aligncenter" width="481"]"Zip Lock I" - limited edition stone lithograph "Zip Lock I" - limited edition stone lithograph[/caption] [caption id="attachment_841" align="aligncenter" width="487"]"Zip Lock II" - airbrush, graphite & stone lithograph "Zip Lock II" - airbrush, graphite & stone lithograph[/caption] [caption id="attachment_842" align="aligncenter" width="636"]"Twelve Baggies on a Bed of Acrylic" - graphite, acrylic, oil pastels on paper "Twelve Baggies on a Bed of Acrylic" - graphite, acrylic, oil pastels on paper[/caption] [caption id="attachment_843" align="aligncenter" width="554"]"Zip Lock III" - limited edition stone lithograph "Zip Lock III" - limited edition stone lithograph[/caption] Chapter 8 During the final semester at OU, I split my time working on prints and painting. As I mentioned the concepts and subject matter for the prints came directly from the “bag series” but the paintings were becoming harder to generate new ideas and quite frankly I was becoming less interested in pursuing the visual avant garde direction of the bag series. It had been over a year since I had stretched a canvas and applied paint in a traditional fashion. I missed the craftsmanship. I missed the act of painting. I consistently read about contemporary art and artists in books and magazines. I started this practice as an undergrad student in an effort to learn about and keep up with art trends. In most reference books and magazines like “Art in America” and “Art Forum,” I learned about the conceptual thinking of individual artists but rarely did I learn anything about their techniques or personal methods of painting. Occasionally I would learn what media was used but that was about it. I was particularly fond of the Abstract Expressionists. I often thought how exciting it would be to have lived in New York City in the early ‘50’s with the explosion of Abstract Expressionism and Cool Jazz. Watching artists like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell mixing with Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Dave Brubeck and Stan Getz as they developed their unique and new styles of art and music. On rare occasions I would come across some information about an artist and their experimentation with different non-traditional materials. I was always very interested in the process, something I definitely picked up from Gene Bavinger. While reading about Willem de Kooning, I learned that he experimented with several different types of oil medium. He first departed from the traditional linseed and stand oil and tried poppy-seed oil that gave him a more fluid mixture. He then abandoned the poppy-seed oil for safflower cooking oil. He bragged that he had found a salad oil that he could use in lieu of expensive artists’ oils. This sounded great to me. I had never painted much with oils and I really wanted to try it. I had become very dependent on acrylic paint and polymer additives to produce large volumes of paint inexpensively for my large paintings. This new “salad dressing” formula sounded like a great way to approach large-scale oil paintings. So, I headed to the grocery store to purchase art supplies. At my local Safeway (pre Homeland) store they didn’t have any safflower oil, so, regular old Wesson oil would have to do. I bought a gallon and headed back to the studio. I stretched up a large canvas, primed it with house paint gesso and set it aside to dry. That night I continued to read and research about de Kooning’s techniques. I read that he really like this new medium because of its liquid state. He stated that it “stays wet a long time, it doesn’t dry like linseed oil, I can work longer.” He was definitely right about that. I found out that his brand of choice was Saff-o-life safflower oil. That must have been a New York only brand; I couldn’t find that brand or any other brand of safflower oil in local grocery stores. I also read he often mixed the oil paint, safflower oil, solvent and water together, whipping it into a fluffy consistency. Wow, mixing it with water, I had never heard of such a thing, but it gave me a lot of ideas. The next morning I headed to the studio with a few new tubes of oil paint and a lot of ideas. I took the canvas and placed it on the floor. I took my oil paint and mixed a specific color then added a large amount of the Wesson oil and started mixing it with a 1” brush. Amazing, this stuff was great. Beautiful rich color with that famous buttery smooth consistency. I added a little thinner until I got a very fluid mixture. I went to the canvas and started pouring, spattering, slinging, brushing, all with my newly found energy and passion. I loved what I was accomplishing so this added to the energy and it all showed. I quickly went back to my paint and mixed another color and rushed back to the canvas. Then I got really crazy. I mixed up another color with acrylic paint; let’s break all the rules! Unlike de Kooning, I didn’t whip the oil and water mixture together; I let them repel each other. This rule of opposites is the fundamental reason lithography works as a printing method and I wanted to see what would happen with paint. It created a beautiful marbling effect on the canvas. I continued the entire day barely stopping to eat. I left the painting on the floor and headed home very satisfied with my new approach and very excited to continue this new series. When I returned the next day I was pleasantly surprised to find the painting rich in color and very energetic. The oil paint was dry to touch so the de Kooning / Hefner formula (my part was the substitution of Wesson oil) seemed to work. My semester work-load was very light so I decided to continue this new direction with the possible goal of showing these new pieces in my senior show, which was scheduled at the end of the semester. I started building more stretcher frames immediately. As the paintings progressed, it looked like I was going to have enough to show, so I started asking for more space in the gallery area to accommodate a good selection of the bag paintings and the new oil paintings. The show was scheduled in the new Art building in the light well gallery. The light well gallery was really only one long wall and I felt that it would be adequate for the bag paintings, but would not be well suited for the oils. The honest truth was the two series were so visually different, they did not show well together. The basic concepts had not changed much but the process and application was so different they really didn’t look like the same person produced them. I asked the Chair of the Department if I could have more space and he allowed me to have an entire adjoining room. This room was designed to be an independent classroom, but it worked well as an overflow room for the gallery. I liked it because I could physically separate the work. This room did not have gallery lighting but it was a good space with open walls. I hung the bag pieces in the light well. I hung the oil paintings in the overflow room along with the three-dimensional bag pieces. I was pleased with the show even though it looked like two completely different artists. I decided earlier to focus on painting in my final thesis show rather than mixing in prints and drawings even though I was producing new work in both categories. Now I was ready to defend my work before my committee before receiving my MFA and I was expecting to have quite a debate because of the visual diversity. It was finally here, the end was in sight, my graduate degree was just days away. The required two years had been finished, the thesis show hung and reviewed and my defense was scheduled. As I mentioned, I was a little concerned about that last step but determined to finish strong. Well, as it turned out, it was no big thing. My committee and I met in the overflow room. After they took one last look at the entire show, we all sat down. They asked a few questions about technique on the most recent oil paintings and then asked if I had any teaching job leads. That was it, all the preparation on concept, rationale and philosophy, all the physical work, all the pain and joy – over in 5 minutes. To this day, I don’t really know how they felt about the work. It was obviously good enough or maybe they felt they had given me all they could and it was just time for me to go. The one thing I do know is I was extremely relieved. Now, for the rest of the story. . .remember I mentioned how important that last semester and the printmaking course was, well as it turned out, I entered every print and drawing show that I could find that semester and was accepted in several. One of the most prestigious was a national competition at Davidson, North Carolina. I didn’t realize at the time how prestigious this show was or how competitive, but it was one of the top print and drawing competitions in the Country at that time. Later, during the summer, in the middle of the massive job hunt, I got a positive response from a small school in North Carolina, Pembroke State University in Pembroke, North Carolina. As it turned out, I sent out over 600 letters of inquires to Colleges and Universities all over the United States and got one interview. That interview turned out to be that small school in North Carolina 30 minutes down the road from Davidson, North Carolina – the same Davidson that hosted the national print and drawing competition where I had recently been accepted. A coincidence, maybe but I doubt it. [caption id="attachment_845" align="aligncenter" width="733"]After the bag series, I missed the traditional aspect of applying paint to canvas, so I experimented with mixing oil and acrylic in a small but significant group of work. This series of work was inspired by Willem de Kooning. "Under the Big Top" - oil and acrylic on canvas After the bag series, I missed the traditional aspect of applying paint to canvas, so I experimented with mixing oil and acrylic in a small but significant group of work. This series of work was inspired by Willem de Kooning.
"Under the Big Top" - oil and acrylic on canvas[/caption] [caption id="attachment_846" align="aligncenter" width="963"]"Thesis Color Study" - oil, acrylic on watercolor paper "Thesis Color Study" - oil, acrylic on watercolor paper[/caption] [caption id="attachment_847" align="aligncenter" width="525"]"New Growth" - oil & acrylic on canvas "New Growth" - oil & acrylic on canvas[/caption] [caption id="attachment_850" align="aligncenter" width="430"]"Untitled" - oil & acrylic on canvas "Untitled" - oil & acrylic on canvas[/caption] [caption id="attachment_851" align="aligncenter" width="531"]Thesis Show - Light Well Gallery, University of Oklahoma Thesis Show - Light Well Gallery, University of Oklahoma[/caption] [caption id="attachment_852" align="aligncenter" width="3080"]Thesis Show - Light Well Gallery, University of Oklahoma Thesis Show - Light Well Gallery, University of Oklahoma[/caption]  
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Route 44 – A Journey – Chapter 4

Chapter 4 Since I thought it would be possible for me to get a MFA degree in one year from OU and was pretty sure I would be accepted into the program, I didn’t bother to apply anywhere else. Both assumptions were very naïve. As it turned out I did get admitted, barely, into the program. I found out later that the faculty tried a new method of selecting their new graduate students. In previous years each faculty member chose the students for their area, i.e. the painting faculty chose the painting students, sculpture faculty chose sculpture students, etc. This year the entire faculty unanimously voted to accept or deny each student. This proved to be almost disastrous for the program, there were only two graduates accepted for the fall 1972 enrollment. Normally, 12 to 15 students would be accepted. So, I began that summer, enrolling in 12 graduate hours. Armed with my new “wrinkle technique” I started working with a goal of 15 – 20 new pieces during the summer. At that time the graduate curriculum was very loose at OU. They had several graduate level studio classes that you could take multiple times with a maximum of 12 total hours in each class. I enrolled in 4 of the classes for 3 hours each with a different professor for each class. You met with each of your professors once a week for critique and just worked. There were no set assignments or projects unless one of your professors asked you to work on something specific. The idea was that you were a working professional and you would work to produce and improve your craft. A simple process that many students had great difficulty adapting to but I loved it. I started doing smaller color studies on paper. These works were full watercolor paper size (22”x30”) and I primarily worked on color and different paper folds. They were quick and I could easily do one or more a day. I was using an airbrush to apply the paint so I was using a variety of airbrush media. I experimented with colored inks and dyes as well as watercolor and acrylic. Tube paints needed to be thinned to a very thin consistency so even the opaque paints became somewhat transparent. This transparency aided in the color palette by multiplying the color with each application. These paper studies were important in the development of the larger works on canvas. It was a great way to perfect and work out problems with spraying and the application of paint. They also quickly led me to push beyond the natural phenomenon of the wrinkle. I started trying all kinds of fold and wrinkle patterns. Everything from ridged grid patterns to deep complex wrinkles and everything in between. Then I experimented with masked areas and over-painting hard edged elements, this led to pouring thick paint over the flat wrinkle illusion to drastically juxtapose the two textures. That summer was very productive, I finished with about 30 watercolors and about 6 large-scale canvases. It was the first time that I had the time and freedom to just work. It was exciting! That summer the school allowed me to set up a temporary studio in the brand new Fred Jones Memorial Art Center. Even though it was temporary it was great because it was a new state of the art facility with plenty of space and all the necessary technology (compressed air) to explore this new technique of painting. All in all it was a very successful summer and I assumed my professors felt the same way because I received all A’s. The first hurdle of my one-year marathon had been successfully completed. [caption id="attachment_808" align="aligncenter" width="802"]"Wrinkle, Pour and Magenta Grid" Acrylic 57"x84" "Wrinkle, Pour and Magenta Grid" / Acrylic / 57"x84"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_809" align="aligncenter" width="604"]"Yellow Window" Acrylic 66"x90" "Yellow Window" / Acrylic / 66"x90"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_810" align="aligncenter" width="415"]Here It Comes sm "Here It Comes" / Acrylic / 66"x84"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_811" align="aligncenter" width="493"]Thin Gold Line sm "Thin Gold Line" / Acrylic / 60"x72"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_812" align="aligncenter" width="602"]Looking Out sm "Looking In" / Acrylic / 66"x96"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_816" align="aligncenter" width="450"] "Looking Out" / Acrylic / 72"x72"[/caption] [caption id="attachment_814" align="aligncenter" width="462"]arc wrinkle sm "Arc Wrinkle" / Acrylic / 72"x72"[/caption] In the fall I had to move my studio. The University had several old buildings on what was called North Base. North Base was an old Naval facility that dated back to the WWII time period. I know what you are wondering, a Naval Base in the middle of land locked Oklahoma? Well, it’s true; the story I was told was that the Navy used it as artillery training for the big guns on ships during the war. The buildings were mostly old frame barracks but there was one concrete building that was the bathhouse for the base swimming pool. There was space available in this building so that is where I moved. The sculptors seemed to be in the old barracks and the painters were in the bathhouse. I had met several of the graduate students a year earlier when I was a senior. I had become friends with a graduate printmaker named Dwight Pogue. He was working with commercial printing techniques and trying to use them in a fine art approach. I became very interested in these techniques and I helped him build a process camera out of found parts that we scrounged from the Government surplus that we had access to in Oklahoma City. We installed this camera in one of the barracks and eventually used it to shoot large-scale negatives and positives for screen-printing. We eventually wrote a book and printed it at Dwight’s dad’s printing company in Missouri but that is another story. Through these efforts I met many of Dwight’s fellow graduate students and friends. One of Dwight’s friends was a painter by the name of Otis Jones. Otis and Dwight had been friends as undergrad students at a small University in Pittsburg, Kansas. Otis also had a studio in the bathhouse and we became friends. Otis was very progressive in his painting. His paintings at the time were large arrangements of a wide variety of materials including thinly painted cheesecloth, natural muslin and raw and painted wood. These materials were assembled in a variety of arrangements on a long wall with some of the wooden elements giving dimensional support to the draped and flowing cloth elements. This visual style was almost radical for me at the time but was very interesting. The better I got to know Otis and the more I watched him work the more I realized how dedicated he was to this new art form. There were a lot of advantages to this method of working. One was cost of materials; one set of materials could be used over and over and over with almost unlimited variation possibilities. Another advantage was storage. Another close graduate friend, Dalton Maroney, recently told me of a time during this period when he helped Otis transport and install an entire show in Otis’s Volkswagen Beetle. The biggest disadvantage was this type of work had no real permanence. Almost none of this type work exists today; it lives by its photographic record. Otis, Dalton, Dwight and all of my graduate friends would become very important in my personal art development. I continued to work with the “wrinkle technique” but watching my fellow grad students work with arranged work in painting and sculpture accelerated my growth and my desire to go beyond the natural beauty of the wrinkle illusion. I worked with the wrinkle technique through my Mid-Way Show. For most of the graduates this show occurred after the first year when the student had finished approximately half of the required 56 hours. Since I was working on the accelerated plan, I scheduled mine after my first fall semester. I had successfully completed 28 hours at this point. The show was at the new Fred Jones Memorial Museum and consisted of eight large stretched canvases. [caption id="attachment_818" align="aligncenter" width="739"]Grad School Midway Show 1971 Grad School Midway Show / 1971 / Fred Jones Jr. Memorial Art Center[/caption] [caption id="attachment_819" align="aligncenter" width="739"] Grad School Midway Show / 1971 / Fred Jones Jr. Memorial Art Center[/caption] [caption id="attachment_820" align="aligncenter" width="727"] Grad School Midway Show / 1971 / Fred Jones Jr. Memorial Art Center[/caption]    
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