Author: Larry_Seiler, Contributing Editor
|Thought maybe that my fellow artist friends here in our Wetcanvas community might enjoy and appreciate a special moment in my life, illustrating how we might impact and touch lives in our community...going outside the world of marketing, galleries, etc;|
Reputation, awards, and accolades might open doors we might never have imagined. High schools are frequently looking for unique presentations for their student bodies, and as it would turn out...it came to be understood that I had something to say about meaning, purpose, and values which perhaps gave me an edge. The result is I have traveled and spoken to many thousands of young people.
|School administrators faced with a great deal of responsibility are understandably cautious who comes and speaks to their youth, and maybe it helped that I had a history of my own foot in education as a classroom instructor. |
With the current malady of culture seeking instant gratification, and the thrill gained lasting just about as long...an "instant", we as artists who typically have a deep sense of commitment, self-discipline, patience, and a passion for life appear a bit of a paradox.
As an art instructor, I witness impatience frequently among students. Asked to start a project over due to misunderstanding instructions or mistakes after a student has a whopping 15 minutes into their work, will often bring loud protest. I challenge the students with my own example- a work that won Wisconsin Wildlife Artist of the Year for me back in 1984, for which better compositional design required in my estimation to block out the owl (for which I had about 30 hours of time into already), and move it over to another area of the painting.
The photo above was my set-up at Memorial High School in Eau Claire, Wisconsin just prior to roughly 1700 students filling the auditorium. Several pieces of my work were set up to feature my artistry and accomplishments. Of all things I could share as an artist, it was hoped I would have something to say to students about drinking and driving just one week before their scheduled prom. Thus, I took up the challenge, and put together this program.
I had a 4'x6' masonite panel which I began at home in preparation. This was later nailed to a large upright easel that the school custodians fashioned together. I decided to paint a portrait of a puppy my wife and I had that brought much joy into our lives, though short lived. His name was "Jazz" and was the smartest little fella, a setter. Unfortunately, we had to put him down at only 5 months of age due to the veterinarian discovering an enlargement of his heart to 3 times its normal size. As this day would go, everyone said their goodbyes to the little guy, and it would be my task to bring him to the vet's.
I literally sat down on our kitchen's floor and held him. Other than some breathing problems, he had no idea anything was wrong. Sitting there, looking into those big brown "life is new and filled with exciting things" eyes...I began to cry. Leaning his head over, he consoled me by licking the tears off my cheeks. It was a very hard and difficult moment.
Well...keep in mind these high school young people did not yet know the story.
As yet, they did not understand my work was worth a great deal of money, and that I would at the very least earn $4,000 for a painting of this size.
As the students filed into the auditorium, I had purposed to appear as though putting some finishing touches on the painting; applying just a few more strokes of paint. As you can see by this next photo, the original was done in black and white only.
|I was introduced, and as it would turn out one of my known skills was requested... that being my ability to vocalize many animal and bird calls which really do decoy the critters! I did a Cree Indian goose flock call using my mouth and cupped hand. I also mimicked- a turkey gobbling; the difference in the grunt between a doe and buck; a playful river otter, and so on. All of which was to the delight of the student body.|
Then, we got into the meat of the program. I explained that my painting was not yet finished. Being only a black and white value underpainting it would require some colored overglazes. I asked for a couple volunteers, and hands shot up everywhere!
I picked a young man and a young lady, who both eagerly ran up to the platform.
I had set five cans of paint on the floor to rest before the large easel with a brush in each. The floor had been covered by large sheets of plastic, as well as the first row of seats. I explained to all that these two young persons were going to help me out by finishing the work...but that it unfortunately had to be done quickly. In two minutes time.
Based on whom the audience chose as the better painter I would give out awards. A music CD certificate to purchase their favorite music for the winner, and a candy bar for the other participant.
|The only stipulation was that each student would be required to wear a special pair of goggles provided by the health department. These goggles provided a virtual experience of how everything appears viewed while intoxicated.|
|When I said, "GO!" the whole event exploded into hilarity. The auditorium filled with cries of hooting, hollering...and laughter. My two nearly abled assistants were stumbling doing what they could just to stay erect, trying hard to find the cans of paint, dip the brush in it and apply it where they thought it should go. In short, they [B]totally demolished what was for me an important and personal work[/B].|
After the time was up, the audience chose their champion; the prizes given out to the students who then returned to their seats. I then went into my story of our horror finding out we would have to put our little pup "Jazz" to sleep. How my wife would wake up several nights thereafter crying in her sleep.
I told them that this piece required a great deal from me as an artist, and represented my best effort. I then explained how art works are often like an extension of the artist or as some put it, "their children." I relented that in what proved only a few minutes of innocent fun for which all took part in, these two students had in their stupor taken away from me that which could never be replaced. They had destroyed what would have been a good and worthy memorium.
In addition, I now informed them as to the value of my snowy owl painting, ($16,500) on a nearby easel, and that this work of the puppy would have been worth about $4,000 had it not been destroyed.
You could have heard a pin drop if it were not for the sniffling and crying heard throughout the auditorium.
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