Friday, November 5, 2010

Art Day!!!

Friday was a wonderful time spent hanging out in the Fine Art department of West Valley High for an event billed as "Art Day." After signing in at the main office and navigating the maze of lockers and flashing back to my own fondly cherished memories of the nightmare known as teenage adolescence...

Rachelle Dowdy letting the chips fall where they may...
Todd Sherman portraiture
Around a couple dozen local artists from the surrounding community coalesced for demonstrations in the school's three studios (impressive digs) to showcase their respective skills and answer questions from any interested students. Hosted by teacher Kris Haggland and cheerled by the inexhaustible, indomitable force of Robin Feinman, milling herds of curious onlookers were treated to everything from drawing, Native Arts, metalsmithing, ceramics, computer art, painting and sculpture. A handful of UAF professors were present, as were many graduate students and local luminaries and rock-stars, a significant percentage of whom were also West Valley alumni as well. The tide of turnout was overwhelming at times, as teachers in the other departments could let their students opt out of class and peruse the aesthetic offerings at this unique buffet of talent. All six periods throughout the day availed themselves of this opportunity and there was something for everyone at this event. Especially a very well stocked snack room with fruit, vegetable platters, bagels, croissants, tasty sandwiches and an unending fountain of fresh coffee for the volunteers. Did I mention the sandwiches? They had sandwiches. But seriously, it's always an inspiration to sit amongst selfless peers who are willing to give up a little of their time and take it to the street. Having one foot in each realm, balancing the inner and the outer faces of working both sides of the table, at both the easel and the podium, is an honor and a responsibility that every artist should avail themselves to at any chance they get. Interaction with the public is a part of the private world that ultimately makes for the most rewarding experience - like a good mustard, it truly tops the satisfaction after making something, to in turn share it with others. And a pickle too.

"No wait... hang on... I just had a funny idea... it's around here somewhere... damn it..."
Better Living Through Chemistry: with the help of a couple doses of "plop-plop/fizz-fizz" and a customary quadruple-shot mocha en-route, yers truly just barely managed to put in a presence. I set up a sprawling table display of posters, original works, samples from publications and various clients, a couple portfolios, sketchbooks and examples by former students. In-between interactions with innocent bystanders and bantering with fellow attendees, I also cranked out a few demo panels with pencil, pen & ink and wash. Only after all the periods had passed was I at last clued in on this event not being what I had originally thought it was: in fact it wasn’t a “Career Day.” So I sheepishly look back at my ceaseless marketing on the prospective skills that are a coveted by-product of creative endeavors, namely freelance gigs and graphic design, as being an equally attractive aspect of commercialism for employment opportunities. On the other hand it was probably good to have an example of the real-world benefits of earning a damn living at doing it, as opposed to just jumping on the academic hamster-wheel, or falling for the starving artist stereotype. Then again, I wasn't exactly the best poster-boy for professionalism... math and science kids, math and science...

As my main bag of show & tell books were elsewhere for another class, I culled a second sampling from my own collection of titles to entice readers with a range of contemporary comics and graphic novels. The list included James Sturm’s “Market Day,” some choice Tony Millionaire (“The Art of” and “That Darn Yarn”), Shannon Wheeler’s “I Though You Would Be Funnier,”  a couple of the classic “Flight” anthologies, The Perry Bible Fellowship’s “Alamanack,” Jim Woodring’s “The Portable Frank,” a couple volumes of Bill Willingham’s “Fables,”  Kazu Kibuishi’s collected “Copper,” and lastly the lusciously weird new “Beasts of Burden/Animal Rites” hardcover release by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson.

Da-ka-xeen Mehner masking his true identity

Man am I ever such a total sucker for taking up any opportunities to peddle both the passion and profession of art, and to promote comics. Educating about art as well as doing it never gets old, and there's no end to turning on new converts to the potential power of this particular medium. As an added bonus I also got to check out some really impressive up & coming talents that took the time to show me their own work for encouragement and feedback. Many thanks to all involved, and especially the sandwiches the tireless and talented staff at West Valley... and most of all the students who stopped by to hang out. A most enjoyable outing spent with fellow artists and enthusiasts alike!

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