A Proper ‘Thank You’

With all the prattling on I do you’d think I’d remember to cover the really important stuff. It dawned on me last night while starting up a new painting (pictured at left) that since the beginning of this blog I’ve completely failed to mention some of the folks that have been instrumental in my development as an Artist and as a person.

How ungrateful. Boo on me.

So, that being said, here goes:
What really struck me was that in all of this chatter I’ve failed to mention a couple of teachers from my high school years that were a major influence on me. Without their presence in my life I probably wouldn’t have pursued Art past my senior year. I’d have gotten a business degree or something more practical like that as suggested by my well-meaning dad and continued to doodle in my spare time. Dad was right about needing something practical as a fall-back. That’s why I stay in IT for the time being. Hey, Jackson Pollock worked as a busboy. Why can’t I work on computers?

Back to the subject tho…
Probably the greatest influence on me as an artist during those years was a man named Mr Calvin Wolf, or “Uncle Cal”. Cal was one of those teachers that rides the edge between friend and disciplinarian: a true mentor. His teaching style put him right in the middle of the action nearly every day. He was a working artist which kept him frosty and ready to motivate. He was casual and friendly, but never lax. He was funny and thought-provoking. As his students we were never afraid to speak our mind, but his casually-commanding presence always kept us in check. When you were in his class you worked hard, but it never felt like work. He knew his students well and invested his time, energy, and emotions if they were willing to do the same.

When our high school, Waterloo Central, was closed he moved with us. At West High he was paired with a ceramics/sculpture teacher named Larry Skerries: a man cut from the same cloth. If you were willing to work he was right there with you every step of the way making suggestions, challenging you to really consider your vision. The two of them made a formidable team. They tag-team engaged our minds and pushed us to excel.

I remember applying for a studio scholarship late my senior year. Ever the procrastinator I’d failed to put together my presentation materials. Uncle Cal was pissed and justifiably so. He sat with me that day after school cutting mats, framing pieces, and lecturing me on the virtues of presentation and preparation. I’ll never forget that (even if I still struggle on those fronts). That dedication really made an imprint on me. I’ve heard the line, “he must really care about you to yell at you like that” before. Fitting. He didn’t actually yell, but I could tell he was on the edge. His voice rising as he reprimanded my lack of foresight. If he hadn’t cared he’d have shrugged it off, gone back to his Morning Thunder tea, and let me sink.

So… Thanks, Uncle Cal. Thanks, Skerries. Hope you see this someday and know what an impact you made.



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